By-catch has become a global threat to marine biodiversity and continues to threaten its existence.
According to WWF Pacific’s Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood Programme, by-catch is the catch of non-target species by offshore fishing vessels.
This includes the unintentional catch of ‘species of special interest’ or endangered, threatened, and protected species such as turtles, sharks and seabirds by tuna longliners.
Wherever there is fishing, there is bycatch-the incidental capture of non-target species such as turtles , marine turtles and seabirds.
WWF together with its partners is working to strengthen legislation on by-catch and to raise consumer awareness about sustainably caught fish.
Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood Programme Policy Officer- Vilisoni Kotobalavu Tarabe said that Bycatch is the biggest threat to our oceans.
As it contributes to overfishing as well as the decline of the fish population.
Much of this captured wildlife are released back into the sea either dead or dying and therefore causing major concerns with regards to preservation problems.
Modern fishing gear, often undetectable by sight and extremely strong, is very efficient at catching the desired fish species-as well as anything else in its path.
Kotobalavu added for example, globally it is estimated that around 50 million species of sharks are illegally caught and within the Pacific Ocean alone around 3.3 million species of sharks, are caught annually and this is mostly by our longline fishing vessels.
WWF aims to reduce bycatch by working with fisheries and helping develop and promote new technologies and gear for more efficient operations.
The work that we are currently doing is to compliment the work on the two by-catch guide-lines, as to also ensure that we support the industry by supplying by-catch mitigation tools to ensure that each vessel has these by-catch tools to safely handle and release sea-turtles, sharks and seabirds and this includes like de-hookers, to remove hooks from sea turtles, line cutters as well.)
WWF-Pacific’s Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood Programme by-catch training manual will help create awareness for future maritime officers on the importance protecting our marine biodiversity.
According to Fiji’s report to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, in 2018; 4,311 species of sharks, 83 species of sea turtles and 9 species of seabirds were reported by Fiji Fisheries observers on Fiji’s longline fishing vessels.