The difference between the difficult and the impossible is that the impossible takes a little longer time. -Lady Aberdeen
As consumer demand for sustainably produced food grows, industry, too, will need to be directly involved in the hands-on adaptation of techniques that ensure profitability as well as workforce compliance with policy.
During my recent study abroad in Ireland, I was witness to the pride and commitment the fishing industry had toward sustainable practices, as well as in maintaining their strong cultural identities. Understanding how that balance is achieved is critical to formulating a best-practices approach to implementation of new technologies in the United States, which has been struggling in its efforts to adopt new methods. With multilevel-multi-agency policies now being implemented that limit fisheries acceptable biological catch, innovative approaches to harvesting fish from the sea has become a necessity. Policy adaptation supporting advanced fishing technologies which are designed to reduce bycatch and entanglements can cripple industry if too restrictive and must be adopted in ways that are manageable and fair for success to be realized. Lobbyists, scientists, and industry in the US are now resorting to a variety of litigious measures to protect their stated interests, therefore, understanding how the EU cooperatively manages their fishing industry could prove highly beneficial. Policy measures that ensure solicitation from all stakeholders will be examined, and future suggestions for a novel framework for the US managed fisheries will be proposed. My study will focus on those policies and directives in the EU identified to have had the most positive impact on fishermen and their communities. This research is instrumental in assisting with efforts in the US when interacting with community fisheries to encourage a more fruitful and engaged cooperative attitude toward marine conservation.
Past research has indicated an undeniable benefit to the use of innovative ropeless gear within pot and trap fisheries with a removal of end lines and buoy lines. (Baumgartner et al., 2018.; Werner et al., 2015; Lent, 2017; FAO, 2018) These innovative approaches to end line management allow for the lowered risk of bycatch and entanglements of critically endangered species, most particularly that of the North Atlantic Right Whale.
It is imperative that a better understanding of the benefits and potential gains be attained if technology such as this is to be affordable and accepted for widespread use for pot/trap fisheries. Due the innate differences of individual fisheries, it is well accepted that there will likely not exist one perfect ropeless technology that will address all of the individual needs of all fisheries. Many of the current designs have several decades of successful use in other applications, serving to catalyze and invigorate new manufacturers of gear, as well as thoughtful adaptations of existing devices.
As with any proposed change to fishing technique or technology, there has historically been a period of resistance, research, and adjustment. This period has been unusually long for ropeless gear, and thus far, much of the discourse between management and industry partners has been laden with untested hypothetical concerns regarding functionality and implementation.
Valid concerns provided by fishers with decades of harvesting experience have not been reasonably resolved with the limited testing that has been completed by manufacturers, environmental non-government organizations, or fisheries partners. To ensure the continued success of a co-management approach to fisheries practices, priority needs to be given to further this testing.
“Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling.” –Carl Gustav Jung
Civic engagement and communication are the most vital link to understanding those factors that drive successful policy change. Immersing oneself in local cultural activities can work to promote the position of all scientists working in marine conservation. Cerebral comprehension of issues that concern fishing communities when faced with change is not enough to inform decision makers, instead, having a “finger on the pulse” of that which makes a community strong is. Often, understanding comes from rapport that develops through identifying shared interests and commonalities.
Spending quality time with those lives you will affect through suggested policy changes ensures that you have the opportunity to not only study the economic impacts these policies can and do have on these communities, but also the cultural implications and experiences that are realized.
Below please find a gear testing matrix that is offered open source to anyone wishing to perform ropeless gear testing. It is the result of the collaborative efforts of all of the gear designers and manufacturers listed on this blog. Through their willingness to work together to solve the problem of entanglements, they are proving that their hearts, as well as their technology are in the Right place. I would personally like to thank them for their participation in this seemingly small but important contribution.
Above data appears in map form as published by NOAA’s Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team.
Statistical data available to date indicates that these numbers reflect possibly less than 6% of all North Atlantic Right Whales killed as a result (either direct or indirect) of entanglement in man-made gear. This is a staggering number considering the current known population of the North Atlantic Right Whale numbers a mere 418 individuals.
“Disentanglement is a crutch that’s been leant on for too long, it should not be viewed as a long-term solution to the entanglement crisis” – large whale disentanglement team member, Massachusetts. Quote from Ellie MacLennan’s 2017 paper “Disentangling a Whale of a Problem”
From the 2017 National Report on Large Whale Entanglements:
“Seventy-six confirmed cases of large whale entanglements were documented along the coasts of the United States in 2017. Seventy of these entanglement cases involved live animals and six involved dead animals. All were independently confirmed by the Large Whale Entanglement Response Network.”
The five most frequently entangled large whale species in 2017 included humpback whale, gray whale, minke whale, blue whale, and North Atlantic right whale. Large whale entanglements were reported and confirmed in the waters of 13 states, along all U.S. coasts except within the Gulf of Mexico.
Approximately 70 percent of confirmed cases in 2017 were entangled in fishing gear (line and buoys, traps, monofilament line, and nets)”
2017 National Report on Large Whale Entanglements, NOAA.
Sadly, this is an all-too-common occurrence these days.
This whale was unable to be completely disentangled, despite the best efforts of the whale watching company (who reported it and stood by the animal) and NOAA’s authorized and highly-trained team. Even when people do everything right, many of these entangled animals can not be freed.
No fisher ever wants or intends to be the cause of these entanglements as they are costly to the fisher as well as the environment. Fishers are not the cause of these entanglements, outdated technology is. We owe it to them to work toward a solution that keeps this in mind.
Why is this issue of sustainably-caught seafood such a controversial one? Take an hour to watch the fascinating BBC video above to find out! Featuring Dougie Vipond, this documentary is not only riveting, but speaks volumes about how far we have still to go to make sure that we are good stewards of the seas.
Brian Skerry is one of my favorite underwater photographers. I find his approach when capturing images of nature to be passionate, reverent, and humble. I am always delighted to introduce people to his work because his actions once out of the water center around conserving what he sees when beneath the waves. I love seeing the world through his camera lens, and I am sure you will, too. Enjoy!
Brian Skerry is a photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998 he has been a contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine. In 2014 he was named a National Geographic Photography Fellow. In 2015 he was named a Nikon Ambassador and in 2017 he was named the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year.
Unique within the field of underwater photography is Brian’s ability to pursue subjects of great diversity. He typically spends eight months each year in the field and frequently finds himself in environments of extreme contrast from tropical coral reefs to diving beneath polar ice. While on assignment he has lived on the bottom of the sea, spent months aboard fishing boats and traveled in everything from snowmobiles to canoes to the Goodyear Blimp to get the picture. He has spent more than 10,000 hours underwater over the last thirty years.
In February 2017, National Geographic Magazine’s cover story focused on the protection and preservation of several of our country’s precious underwater ecosystems. Not only did Brian get to snorkel with the president, but he became the first photographer to ever catch an image of an “underwater Commander-in-chief”!
Brian can be followed on Instagram (@BrianSkerry), Twitter (Brian_Skerry) and on Facebook. His website is http://www.BrianSkerry.com.
You can purchase Ocean Soul by clicking the button below, or check out any of his other stunning work.
Disclaimer: All materials shared on this page are the artistic and intellectual property of Brian Skerry and National Geographic. If you link or share, please make certain to cite and credit both appropriately, as I have tried to do here. They work hard to support saving vital ecosystems, so ensuring they are credited both financially and artistically is important. Thanks!
Below you will find links and videos highlighting the current manufacturers of several different styles of this innovative gear. Not all of the gear videos are the most current, as some of the designs are protected under non-disclosure agreements with the author or patents pending. As newer videos become available, this page will be updated. I have also included links to contact the manufacturers directly under each video.
The systems are presented in alphabetical order. Feel free to contact the author for any questions.
The majority of baleen whales feed by either opening their mouths after targeting a specific prey and taking in a large amount of fish plus sea water, then forcing the excess water out through their baleen, or by actively swimming with their mouths open while straining the water. The latter is the method of feeding used by the North Atlantic Right Whale.
While entanglement is not limited to this species, they do tend to pick up a great deal of vertical line from the water column. With eyes placed on the sides of their heads, these whales have limited vision directly in front of them, similar to horses. Lastly, North Atlantic Right Whales have an unusual downward angled curve to the back of their lips, creating the perfect anchor space for any rope they may accidentally sweep up in their search for food.
Other causes of entanglement:
Seine nets, monofilament nets and lines, and mooring lines are just a few of the underwater threats faced by dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles, sharks, and pinnipeds (seals, sea lions) as well as a whole host of whales, both large and small.