Why is reducing sea turtle bycatch important?
What is bycatch?
Bycatch, in the fishing industry, is a fish or other marine species that is caught unintentionally while fishing for specific species or sizes of wildlife. Bycatch is either the wrong species, the wrong sex, or is undersized or juveniles of the target species.
What type of bycatch do we see?
Our primary areas of work mainly interfaces with artisanal fishers and the bycaught turtles from their fishing activities. However, we also work to address other destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling which also a significant threat to sea turtles.
Protect sea turtles, protect others
Although we talk about sea turtle bycatch, it really is marine life bycatch more broadly. Sea turtles just happen to be the indicator species we focus on as our flagship species.
The interventions used for mitigating sea turtle bycatch also mitigate bycatch of other important marine animals such as sharks, rays (many of whom are endangered too!) and marine mammals, as well as undersized fish.
By reducing destructive fishing gears and encouraging more sustainable fisheries, both our marine environment and those who depend on them benefit!
Tackling undersized and monofilament netting
Removing monofilament and undersized nets used by artisanal fisherman has a significant impact on reduction of turtle and other marine life bycatch.
We work closely with fisherman, fisheries and law enforcement to remove undersized and monofilament nets. The gears we encourage and help enable fisherman to use are those that have proven to be more sustainable fishing gears by credible academia and research institutions and are also in line with the national fishery bylaws.
Our policy on net fishing is to only encourage and support a minimum mesh size of 2.5 inches, but ideally 3inches and nylon nets.
For sensitive and ecologically important areas such as Mida Creek, our preference is to move away from net fishing and adopting the more sustainable line and hook fishing.
Mida Creek - on a path to success!
We are incredibly proud of our bycatch mitigation efforts in Mida Creek (Watamu Marine Reserve).
By working closely with the fisher community, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Fisheries we developed and implemented an illegal gear exchange programme.
This intervention was done in parrellel with deep education and awareness efforts as well as enhanced law enforcement.
Thus far, we have observed around 60% reduction in sea turtle bycatch compared to the years preceding the intervention – a positive trend we hope to see continue!
Beyond this, we have also seen a behaviour shift with many fisherman, who now actively encourage more sustainable fishing in their fishing sites and even help remove illegal fishing gears!