In the UK, bycatch or entanglement in fishing gear is one of the most significant threats to the conservation and welfare of marine species, including cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), seabirds, seals and elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays). Through the Fisheries Act 2020 and the Joint Fisheries Statement (JFS), the UK government and devolved administrations recognise the need to minimise and, where possible, eliminate bycatch of these sensitive marine species as part of a wider effort to ensure the sustainability of our fisheries.
Reducing bycatch is complex and likely to require solutions that are tailored to different needs in different fisheries. It is important to bring together all stakeholders, including the fishing industry, non-governmental organisations, and national and international experts, to collaboratively develop and implement solutions that are ambitious, effective and practical.
The Bycatch Mitigation Initiative outlines how the UK government and devolved administrations will achieve their ambitions to minimise and, where possible, eliminate the bycatch of sensitive marine species, by:
- Improving our understanding of bycatch and entanglement of sensitive marine species through monitoring and scientific research.
- Identifying “hotspot” or high-risk areas, gear types and/or fisheries for bycatch and entanglement in the UK in which to focus monitoring and mitigation.
- Developing, adopting and implementing effective measures to minimise and, where possible, eliminate bycatch and entanglement of sensitive marine species.
- Identifying and adopting effective incentives for fisheries to implement bycatch and entanglement mitigation measures.
- Working with the international community to share best practice and lessons learned to contribute to the understanding, reduction and elimination of bycatch and entanglement globally.
Marine environment and fisheries policy is largely devolved. Each fisheries policy authority is responsible for setting out how they will take action on bycatch.
Clean Catch UK supports the development and implementation of effective bycatch policies in England through gathering information about bycatch rates and studying new bycatch reduction techniques. While outcomes will be specifically applicable to the South-west English fisheries in the first instance, Clean Catch UK research is public and potentially applicable to fisheries management efforts across the UK and contributes to wider efforts to implement the objectives in the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative.