An investigation of factors related to the bycatch of small cetaceans in fishing gear
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The bycatch of cetaceans in fishing gear is considered to be one of the biggest conservation threats to these species. Gear modifications have the potential to reduce these bycatches in global fisheries but there is little available information on how such modifications may change the fishing performance of gear, or indeed the behavior of cetaceans interacting with fishing gear. Generalized linear models (GLMs) were used to identify factors related to cetacean bycatches in UK bottom set gillnets. Rigged net height had a significant positive relationship with harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) bycatch in ICES Area VII suggesting that lowering the profile of gillnets may have the potential to reduce bycatch rates. Modifications to gillnets, such as changing the amount of floatation or increasing the density of the meshes, were found to have significant effects on the active fishing heights of these nets. However, results from a bycatch mitigation trial in Argentina showed that the reduced fishing profile of one experimental net did not result in a concurrent reduction in the bycatch rate of Franciscana dolphins (Pontoporia blainvillei). While there was no significant difference in the rate, length or intensity of harbour porpoise encounters in the presence or absence of gillnets, the proportion of fast echolocation click trains were significantly higher when a net was present, indicating that porpoises either increased acoustic inspection of the net or foraging in the vicinity of the net. An analysis of underwater video footage collected inside trawl nets in an Australia fishery showed that bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) were present inside nets more frequently than they were caught and were actively foraging inside these nets. The orientation of dolphins inside these nets indicates that the current design of excluder devices used in this fishery could be improved to further reduce bycatch rates.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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