Reducing bycatch continues to pose challenges for scientists, policymakers, fishers, and other stakeholders. The latest themed set in ICES Journal of Marine Science highlights how common tools and techniques are often overlooked or underused. For instance, setting quotas that include zero catch often does not suffice to reduce unwanted catch. Instead, it could lead to the illegal landing or discarding of unwanted catches, which increases uncertainty in stock assessments and undermines effective management. The main strategies used to reduce unwanted catches are selective gear and spatiotemporal shifts of fishing effort. However, both strategies have shown mixed success, with low voluntary uptake or high resistance among fishers. The papers in the themed set urge behavioural changes, not only from fishers but also from policy-makers, scientists, institutions, and processes.
For policy-makers, there is a need to reform policies that do not incentivize reducing unwanted catch effectively. Fishers are encouraged to understand the control they have over mixed-fisheries catches and how they can change their behaviour to reduce unwanted catches. Lastly, change agents can explore models of human behaviour to develop outreach strategies that can improve the uptake of bycatch reduction methods.
A study by Tookes et al. (2023) shows how literature describing the Diffusion of Innovation and Traditional Ecological Knowledge provides insight into the successful adoption of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in Georgia, USA. This study also suggests that combining emotion and sentiment with diffusion theory could lead to the successful adoption of bycatch reduction methods.
The study by Jenkins et al. (2023) identifies best practices for successful change in fisheries that do not necessarily yield improved uptake. They highlight the importance of empowering change agents and emotions in the uptake of new ideas and changes. Eayrs (2023) developed a change management model and applies it to two uptake case studies in Australia, recommending the model's effectiveness in future uptake activities. Barz (2023) used structuration theory to identify the attitudes and beliefs of gillnet fishers regarding the bycatch of seabirds and marine mammals. The study by Steins et al. (2023) identified two behavioural components, willingness and ability, which were linked to intrinsic motivations and beliefs, the perceived legitimacy of regulations, and strong beliefs among fishers about equity in compliance and enforcement. They recommend addressing factors associated with willingness as a key to encouraging more selective fisheries. Grønbæk et al. (2023) identified and explained specific factors leading to the successful cooperative campaign to reduce bycatch in the British Columbia groundfish trawl fishery.
All papers point out the great need for working alongside fishers and understanding their choices and decision-making processes to reduce unwanted catches. It is necessary to develop new approaches to human behaviour to improve uptake and encourage the successful adoption of bycatch reduction methods.
It is also essential to empower change agents and recognize the role of emotions in the uptake of new ideas and changes. There is a need for policy-makers to reform policies that do not incentivize reducing unwanted catch effectively, and fishers must explore the control they have over mixed-fisheries catches and their role in reducing unwanted catches.
The main motivators behind this Themed Set are Mike Pol (Responsible Offshore Science Alliance, USA) and Christos D. Maravelias (University of Thessaly, Greece).
To learn more about the submitted articles, explore the latest themed set in ICES Journal of Marine Science, Challenges to incentivising avoidance of unwanted catch.
Cartoon: Bas Köhler. Click to enlarge.