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Oceana's Bycatch Report and Media Coverage Ignores Key Successes in U.S. Fisheries

By minimizing the significant advancements in U.S. fisheries management to reduce bycatch, Oceana's report and much of the subsequent media coverage do not accurately represent the current state of bycatch management, and shortchanges the tremendous efforts taken by American fishermen, regulators, and scientists to make those successes possible, according to Saving Seafood.

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Turtle Excluder Device (Photo: NOAA Fisheries)

The trend in U.S. fisheries management is clearly moving in the direction of greater awareness of bycatch-related issues, and increased cooperation among fishermen, scientists, and managers to develop new solutions to these problems.

(PRWEB) May 27, 2014

Environmental special interest group Oceana made headlines last March with its bycatch report, "Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries." Since the report's release, many media publications and other environmental organizations, such as The Pew Charitable Trusts, have further presented coverage of issues regarding bycatch in the United States, but these stories often provide little or no information about the significant and successful efforts taken by many commercial fisheries to curb unintended catch. A recently released response by Saving Seafood concludes that these omissions of facts are misleading, ultimately providing the public a skewed perspective on U.S. fisheries management.

According to the Saving Seafood response, Oceana consistently presented the report's data in a way that magnifies alleged problems with bycatch, while minimizing references to successful and ongoing efforts to address unintended bycatch. Saving Seafood writes, "The result is a distorted picture of the current state of U.S. fisheries as a whole, and bycatch issues in particular. A closer examination of such findings, and omissions, reveals that the situation is more complicated and less dire than these groups' misleading reports have led readers, radio listeners, and television viewers to believe."

Prior to the release of Oceana's report and continuing today, fishermen, regulators, and scientists are working together to address these issues and improve bycatch reduction technologies, as underscored by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Bycatch Program.

According to Saving Seafood, "The trend in U.S. fisheries management is clearly moving in the direction of greater awareness of bycatch-related issues, and increased cooperation among fishermen, scientists, and managers to develop new solutions to these problems."

New technologies and management efforts have already been implemented to reduce U.S. bycatch. The Atlantic sea scallop fishery, one of the most valuable in the nation according to NOAA's recently released Fisheries Economics of the United States report, has partnered in the last decade with the Coonamessett Farm Foundation to design turtle excluder devices, which have been required on all scallop vessels since 2013, and prevent sea turtles from being caught in dredge gear, according to NOAA Fisheries. Long-line fisheries, such as the swordfish fishery, deploy circle hooks, which according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), are much less likely to be swallowed by turtles than traditional J-shaped hooks. The Ruhle trawl, a trawl design developed through a cooperative research effort between NOAA and the University of Rhode Island, can reduce the catch of nontarget fish species in the Northeastern groundfish fishery by up to 50 percent, according to NOAA.

By minimizing these past successes and dwelling on alleged failures, Oceana's report and much of the subsequent media coverage do not accurately represent the current state of bycatch management, and shortchanges the tremendous efforts taken by American fishermen, regulators, and scientists to make those successes possible, according to the Saving Seafood analysis.

Read the full response from Saving Seafood here.


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  • Bob Vanasse
    Stove Boat Communications
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