Pacific Island Fisheries and Interactions with Marine Mammals, Seabirds and Sea Turtles
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The extent to which Pacific Island fisheries affect marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds due to bycatch remains largely unknown. This report attempts to synthesize the existing information relating to fisheries and bycatch of marine mammals, sea turtles, and sea birds in the Pacific Island countries and territories. The Oceania region encompasses the 22 Pacific Island countries and territories including Papua New Guinea (PNG), but excluding Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia. Tuna is the most important commercial fishery with four target species (albacore, bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin) and four distinct gear types (purse seine, longline, pole and line, and trollers) (Gillett, 2008). The subsistence and artisanal fisheries located inshore are largely unregulated with little to no monitoring of catch or effort. Bycatch would be extremely difficult to monitor in these fisheries as seabirds, turtles and even some marine mammals are consumed traditionally throughout the Pacific Islands and any unintentional catch would be retained and consumed. Despite efforts in certain areas and on several species, e.g., humpback whales, detailed knowledge of marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles is at best extremely limited. The only bycatch mortality estimates are from the commercial tuna fishery indicating around 265 marine mammals, 100 seabirds and 900 sea turtles are killed per year (Molony 2005). The main challenge to identifying and quantifying bycatch of sea turtles is the lack of observer coverage. Information on population structure and occurrence of marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds in the region should be a priority. Bycatch language should be written into national tuna management programs and industry should be involved in discussions to mitigate bycatch at the WCPFC. Other recommendations include research into the catch and effort in subsistence and small-scale fisheries as well as mandatory workshops for commercial vessel owners on bycatch handling and training as part of a licensing scheme.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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