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Tackling Bycatch in U.S. Fisheries

A Message from Eileen Sobeck, Head of NOAA Fisheries
February 17, 2016
#TacklingBycatch

This month, we shine a light on bycatch as part of our continuing recognition of the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s 40th anniversary. The law has helped U.S. ocean fisheries become some of the world’s largest and most sustainably managed. But bycatch – animals that fishermen don’t want, cannot sell, or aren’t allowed to keep – threatens the continued sustainability and resiliency of our local fishing communities, regional economies, and ocean ecosystems.

Bycatch comes in many forms and affects people in myriad ways. Here in the United States, the amount of bycatch varies widely by fishery and type of fishing gear. Consequently, our approach to addressing bycatch must be equally diverse. Over the next several weeks, we will make several announcements that highlight our efforts to monitor, understand, and address bycatch in U.S. ocean fisheries.

Driven by our three major mandates – the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act – you will hear how we’re tracking bycatch in specific fisheries, improving our science on released and discarded fish, and supporting the development of highly selective fishing gears. Each announcement is significant in its own right, but collectively they contribute to the broader conversation about how we can best meet our responsibility to ensure that marine fisheries remain sustainable and that we give protected species their best chance to recover.

All of this work builds on our 40-year track record of collaborating with fishermen, academia, and all of our partners to address bycatch. Some of our biggest bycatch breakthroughs are outlined in a new online feature. It serves as a great reminder of how far we have come.

This past informs our future. Last year, I asked a cross-program office team to take a fresh, forward-looking view at the agency’s approach to addressing bycatch issues. Next week, we will release and invite public input on a draft National Bycatch Strategy, the first update in more than a decade.

We would like the release of the draft strategy to jump start a broader discussion on minimizing bycatch. Once we finalize the overarching strategy, we will develop complementary national and regional action plans to identify priority implementation activities. Those plans will benefit from the experience and expertise of our partners and stakeholders. Stay tuned for more about how best to engage on this next step. In the meantime, please visit our bycatch website for updates throughout the month.

I am proud of our collective efforts thus far to find solutions to reduce bycatch while sustainably managing our ocean fisheries and recovering protected species. From ending overfishing to reversing the decline of protected species, we’ve realized that by working together, we can accomplish much.  Thank you for your continued support in helping NOAA Fisheries carry out this important work.

Sincerely,

Eileen
 


Eileen Sobeck
Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries