When fishing gear is lost, abandoned or discarded in the marine environment it continues to capture marine wildlife; the gear creates a risk of entanglement that leads to injuries and death.
Ghost gear is a source of marine mammal bycatch because the fishermen do not have access to the marine wildlife that is being caught, they can’t sell it or even release it from the gear.
NOAA Fisheries, also known as The National Marine Fisheries Service, is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce of the United States. To reduce marine mammal bycatch associated with international commercial fishing NOAA Fisheries issued a rule that establishes a marine mammal bycatch criteria for U.S. imports in 2016. This rule not only marks and important step forward in marine mammal conservation, it also incentives fishers to adopt new techniques and technologies to lower the risk of bycatch.
Dolphins are a common bycatch in fisheries, especially in tuna fishing operations. To minimize dolphin fatalities the the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP) entered into force in February 1999. Their objectives are:
- Progressively reduce incidental dolphin mortalities in the tuna purse-seine fishery in the Agreement Area to levels approaching zero, through the setting of annual limits.
- Seek ecologically sound means of capturing large yellowfin tunas not in association with dolphins.
- Ensure the long-term sustainability of the tuna stocks in the Agreement Area