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Fisheries Interactions/Protected Species Bycatch

Two orcas swimming near a fishing boat
Killer whales
(Orcinus orca)
Photo: Mandy Merklein and P. Michael Payne, NOAA

harbor porpoise entangled in a net
Dall's Porpoise, entangled
(Phocoenoides dalli)
Photo: NOAA


pilot whale lying on the deck of a boat
Pilot Whale mortality
(Globicephala sp.)
Photo: Mandy Merklein and P. Michael Payne, NOAA


loggerhead turtle swims out of a net equipped with a turtle excluder device (TED)
Loggerhead turtle escaping a trawl net equipped with a turtle excluder device (TED)
(Caretta caretta)
Photo: NOAA

Fishing gear can accidentally capture protected species, such as marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles. The Office of Protected Resources works with the fishing industry to develop or modify fishing gear and practices to minimize this bycatch and its impact.

Reducing bycatch is a top issue for NOAA Fisheries. We are seeing success in reducing bycatch in U.S. fisheries.

Marine Mammal-Commercial Fisheries Interactions

The 1994 Amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), made a number of changes in the regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals during the course of commercial fishing operations. The amendments included:

Sea Turtle Bycatch in the U.S.

Incidental take in fishing operations, or bycatch, is one of the most serious threats to the recovery and conservation of marine turtle populations. To reduce this threat, NMFS has instituted fishery observer programs to document the bycatch of protected species, such as sea turtles, and promulgated regulations to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.

In the Pacific, NMFS requires measures (e.g., gear modifications, changes to fishing practices, and time/area closures) to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the Hawaii- and California-based pelagic longline fisheries and the California/Oregon drift gillnet fishery.

In the Atlantic, NMFS has issued measures (e.g., gear modifications, changes to fishing practices, and time/area closures) to reduce sea turtle bycatch in pelagic longline, mid-Atlantic gillnet, Chesapeake Bay pound net, and Southeast shrimp and flounder trawl fisheries. In the southeast U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, NMFS has worked closely with the trawl fishing industry to develop turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to reduce the mortality of sea turtles incidentally captured in shrimp trawl gear. TEDs that are large enough to exclude even the largest sea turtles are now required in shrimp trawl nets.

NMFS is currently involved in cooperative gear research projects designed to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic pelagic longline fisheries, the Hawaii-based deep set longline fishery, the Atlantic sea scallop dredge fishery, the Chesapeake Bay pound net fishery, and non-shrimp trawl fisheries in the Atlantic and Gulf.

Related Publications

More Information

Updated: August 19, 2014