Late last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report outlining for the first time bycatch in the nation’s fisheries. It was compiled from data collected in 2005, and will serve as a baseline for future bycatch reports.
Samantha Brooke was with the NOAA Office of Science and Technology when she worked on the report. She’s now with the protected resources division of NOAA’s Northwest Region in Seattle, where KMXT news reached her.
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Brooke says some fisheries had incomplete data and some extrapolation had to be done, but that the estimated bycatch in 2005 was 1.9 billion pounds. Nationally, the rate of bycatch was 17 percent of the total catch. In Alaska, it was less than half that, at 7 percent. Brooke says the lower rate is partially due to the large-scale and "relatively clean" fisheries in the state. The figures do not include marine mammals, sea turtles or sea birds, which are all counted individually.
Christina Patrick, a NOAA spokeswoman in Washington D.C., said the study isn’t intended to point fingers, but just to illuminate the issue:
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Brooke says the report will be of interest to fishermen and fisheries managers, but also to the general public.
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Brooke says the study carries with it several recommendations on bettering observer coverage:
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Brooke says that NOAA scientists are right now working on subsequent years of data to get a better picture of bycatch over time.