How Scientists Are Using Real-Time Data to Help Fishermen Avoid Bycatch

Smithsonian –

From 1990 to 2000, fishermen seeking swordfish off the coast of California accidentally caught and killed over 100 leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles, and injured many more.

In 2001, the federal government established the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area, a 250,000-square-mile region off the coast of California that is off-limits to fishing boats from August through November.

Since then, the number of turtles killed as bycatch has plummeted, but a handful of animals still die from being entangled in fishing nets each year—too many, environmental advocates say. And at the same time, the closure of the giant oceanic region means the once-$15 million swordfish industry has become a $2 million industry, and the number of boats plying the waters has decreased significantly.

Scientists and ocean advocates are hoping to find a way to both protect sea turtles and other threatened species and help fishermen make a living. To this end, many are looking at dynamic ocean management, a strategy that uses advances in real-time data collection to help fishing vessels meet fish where they are—and avoid all other bycatch.

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