Compensatory Mitigation of Marine Bycatch is Inaffective

Many non-target species are killed regularly as a result of commercial fishing activities, these are known as marine bycatch. As well as fish, many seabirds are affected by fishing, particularly by long-line fishing techniques.

A potentially policy-influencing paper was published last year in Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, suggesting that loss of seabirds by fishing activities could be ‘compensated’ by promoting conservation efforts such as removing rats from islands colonized by seabirds. However new research published in PLoS suggests that this would only work in a limited number of cases, and in the majority of cases, the mitigation scheme would actually be detrimental. This is because the seabirds affected such as albatross, are often long-lived and produce few young infrequently, so they are unable to replace themselves at the rate they are being lost through bycatch. The authors suggest the policy would only benefit some of the species affected by bycatch, whilst others continue to be lost or could potentially be affected worse by inaction.

The authors of the paper urge caution when adopting policies for endangered species.