ISSF researches, identifies, and publishes science-based best practices — often in collaboration with commercial tuna skippers — for mitigating bycatch. Bycatch is the catch of any species that is not the main reason for which the skipper is fishing, whether the catch is retained or discarded.
To help fishers avoid unintentional catches of non-target species, our scientists investigate the effectiveness of changes in fishing gear and methods, including fish aggregating device (FAD) design and management. We also test and refine safe handling-and-release techniques skippers can follow when marine animals are accidentally caught.
There are three major areas of concern when it comes to sharks – observed bycatch, unobserved mortality due to entanglement in fishing gear, and shark finning practices.
ISSF supports multiple initiatives to track, report on, and minimize the bycatch of sea turtles in purse-seine and longline tuna fisheries.
Minor changes in tuna-fishing and bycatch handling practices could lead to major improvements for the survival of manta and devil rays — among the ocean’s slowest-growing, most vulnerable species.
Many seabirds in tuna fisheries are endangered — and at risk of harm from baited tuna-fishing hooks. Our longline skippers guidebooks show fishers how to avoid attracting and hooking them.
In FAD tuna fisheries, other species at risk of becoming bycatch are the “minor tunas” (such as little tunny, bullet tuna, and kawakawa); other bony fishes (including mahi-mahi, triggerfish, and rainbow runners); and billfishes like Atlantic marlin.
In our scientific reports, we publish data and analysis on a range of bycatch issues — from summaries of our at-sea research projects, international workshops, and collaborations with skippers to bycatch rates by fishery type and species-specific bycatch mitigation procedures. We also have explored the market retention of non-target species caught as bycatch.
ISSF is researching how acoustic discrimination of tuna species at FADs, using echosounder technology, may help fishers to more precisely target certain tuna species and avoid catching bycatch species. Our scientists publish their findings in peer-reviewed articles.
Watch our videos for an introduction to our bycatch research.
As we identify key challenges in and potential solutions for reducing bycatch of all species in tuna fisheries worldwide, we create conservation measures to address them.
ISSF conservation measures affect how leading seafood companies operate and source tuna, and also how certain vessels fish — including the type of equipment they use.
Among our 11 measures focused on bycatch mitigation, for example, we address anti-shark-finning efforts, tuna retention, non-entangling FADs, and more.
To prepare skippers for interactions with sharks and other bycatch species — as protective as possible to both fishers and animals — ISSF offers bycatch-education opportunities and resources:
We also share research about set times and technology that can help vessels to fish more selectively and minimize unintentional catches.
We turn our scientific insights about sustainable fishing approaches into conservation and policy recommendations for Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), governing bodies, and other oversight agencies.
For instance, our advocacy experts develop position statements to petition RFMOs about bycatch-mitigation requirements for fleets in their ocean regions. We recommend steps RFMOs can take to make their measures align with best practices, and we assess their progress.
We also circulate joint letters to RFMOs, co-signed by seafood companies, retailers, and environmental organizations.
Tuna fishers that rely on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) to make their catch can significantly reduce the risk of entangling sharks and other animals by not using netting.
Our guide illustrates how to build FADs that not only avoid netting but also incorporate natural, biodegradable materials in place of traditional plastic or other man-made components.
We publish the guide in several languages.
The ISSF Guidebooks site contains guides, in several languages, to help fishers identify different species of tuna.
We also offer identification guides for bycatch species such as sharks, rays, billfish, sea turtles, seabirds, and non-tuna finfish.