NOAA Fisheries has allocated nearly $2 million for bycatch reduction engineering program projects in fiscal 2021, including $403,692 for the West Coast, $99,700 for Alaska, and $410,578 for the Pacific Islands.
One Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission grant of $157,897 will be used for testing modified circle hooks to reduce yelloweye rockfish bycatch in the West Coast directed Pacific halibut longline fishery. The project will modify hooks on which Pacific halibut are caught to see whether such hooks can decrease the catch of yelloweye rockfish while still being equally effective in catching halibut.
Another $245,797 grant to the PSMFC is allocated for artificial illumination of trawl gear components to reduce Pacific halibut bycatch in West Coast and Alaska bottom trawl fisheries.
This study will test whether adding lights to fishing gear can help Pacific halibut avoid capture in bottom trawl fisheries targeting other species.
A $99,700 grant to the International Pacific Halibut Commission is for a gear-based approach to catch protection as a means of minimizing whale depredation in the longline fisheries. Whales eating fish off longlines results in revenue loss for harvesters and also puts whales at risk of injury or entanglement in fishing gear.
This study draws on the collective expertise of fishery participants and scientists to identify ways to prevent depredation in Alaska longline fisheries and will test the most promising methods at sea.
Another three grants were allocated for Pacific Islands fisheries.
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation was awarded $168,962 to test the use of biodegradable fish aggregating devices in the Pacific Ocean. The project will design and test innovative biodegradable devices to eliminate use of netting and replace most of the plastic with organic biodegradable materials, particularly in the Western Pacific Ocean.
Eric Gilman LLC was granted $53,200 for a study using existing mortality data of sharks and rays to understand factors that influence surviving capture in pelagic longline fisheries, such as those that target tuna in the Western Pacific Ocean.
The Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research received $188.416 for a project to reduce longline bycatch using artificial baits off the Hawaiian Islands. Researchers plan to test an artificial bait that relies on target species’ vision, rather than their sense of smell, making the bait more species-selective than other artificial baits that have been tested.