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Bycatch Mitigation in the Indian Ocean: IWC workshop report published

A  more systematic process of assessment, and focus on gillnets, are amongst key recommendations in the report of the IWC Bycatch Workshop, published today.   

The multi-disciplinary expert workshop was held in May in Nairobi, Kenya, and attended by 50 participants including 24 from nine countries within the Indian Ocean region.  Participants included national government officials working in marine conservation and fisheries management, cetacean and fisheries researchers, fisheries technologists, socio-economists and representatives from Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, inter- and non-governmental organisations. The focal region of the workshop extended from South Africa, north to the Arabian Sea and east to Sri Lanka, including coastal areas, national waters and high seas.

The primary objectives  were to develop a broad-scale picture of cetacean bycatch across the North and Western Indian Ocean region (gaps, priorities, challenges and opportunities), to introduce the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative (BMI) to Indian Ocean stakeholders, and to assess how the BMI can be of use.

Current tools available to monitor and tackle cetacean bycatch were presented and discussed.  These included low-cost and low-tech experimental mitigation, and innovative, crew-based observer schemes. A panel discussion and breakout group sessions allowed for more in-depth discussion of the shared challenges across the region. Priority areas where cetacean bycatch is likely to be occurring, or known to be occurring, were identified across the region.

The workshop recognised that bycatch is one of the most significant threats to cetacean species and populations in the Indian Ocean region, and concluded that there was an urgent need to raise awareness at local, national, regional and international levels. It was noted that cetacean bycatch is generally very poorly documented in the region and that this presents a major barrier to understanding the scale of the issue and making progress towards bycatch reduction.

The workshop came to some specific conclusions, including:

  • That a more systematic assessment of bycatch information is critical, particularly for small-scale and medium-scale fisheries.
  • Within the Indian Ocean region there is a need to focus on gillnets (set and drifting) as the fishing gear most likely to be causing the highest and most significant bycatch of cetaceans, and for which few technical solutions currently exist.
  • Further work to develop and trial low-cost and low-tech solutions for mitigation and monitoring was urgently needed
  • That bycatch reduction efforts should apply multi-disciplinary and multi-taxa approaches, and include socio-economic factors and strong collaboration with fishing communities.
  • That there is a need to raise the profile of cetacean bycatch, and the need to address it, within RFMOs and their contracting governments in the region.

The workshop report details a number of specific recommendations towards tackling cetacean bycatch across the region.

The workshop was held on 8-9 May 2019 and the workshop report is now available here.

To read more about bycatch click here.