By-catch reported in Eastern Pacific Ocean pelagic fisheries include silky sharks and Oceanic whitetip sharks. A hook-exchange and observer program is in place in Nicaragua and other EPO countries to reduce bycatch of sea turtles (FAO 2011).
Bycatch of seabirds, sea turtles, marine mammals and sharks in pelagic longline fisheries threatens some populations with extinction.
IATTC has adopted the following conservation and management measures related to mitigating bycatch:
IATTC has not adopted a legally binding measure to mitigate seabird bycatch. In 2005, recommended: (i) implementation of the FAO International Plan of Action – Seabirds; (ii) collection of information on seabird interactions, including bycatch in fisheries; and (iii) Working Group on Stock Assessment to assess the impact of seabird bycatch in eastern Pacific tuna fisheries.
IATTC does not require employment of best practice gear technology sea turtle bycatch mitigation measures for pelagic longline fisheries, of a combination of wide circle hooks and whole fish instead of squid for bait. A 2004 resolution established a three-year program to: (i) collect and analyze information on sea turtle fishery interactions in the eastern Pacific Ocean; (ii) review the efficacy and effects on target species catch rates of sea turtle avoidance methods; (iii) educate the industry sector; and (iv) establish a voluntary fund to augment the capacity for sea turtle conservation by coastal developing countries. The program was extended in 2007. Program activities, implemented in collaboration with numerous organizations, have included: (i) the exchange of circle hooks for J hooks, tuna hooks and narrower circle hooks; (ii) distribution of dehookers; (iii) placement of onboard observers to monitor hook trials; and (iv) training in data collection and database management for participants in the hook trials.
A 2007 resolution calls on longline vessels to: (i) carry and use turtle releasing equipment; and (ii) conduct trials of combinations of circle hooks and bait, depth and other turtle bycatch mitigation measures.
A 2005 measure requires members’ vessels to: (i) keep all parts of retained sharks, excluding head, guts and skins, to the point of first landing; (ii) have onboard fins that total < 5% of the weight of sharks onboard, up to the first point of landing, or otherwise ensure compliance with the 5% rule through certification, observer monitoring or other method. IATTC has passed resolutions annually since 1999 to evaluate and reduce elasmobranch bycatch. Measures restricting shark finning practices such as IATTC’s generally have limited potential to control shark fishing mortality levels except in fisheries with limited markets for shark meat and strong resources for monitoring, control and surveillance. IATTC does not require employment of longline gear technology best practices for shark bycatch mitigation (Gilman, In Press).
No measures relevant to marine mammal interactions with handline fisheries.