The Aquarium has been working to better understand and reduce the impact of bycatch on marine animals for decades. During the 1990s, our researchers began the investigate the use of acoustic pingers as a bycatch reduction device in the gillnet fishery. We proved that these pingers reduced the bycatch of harbor porpoises in gillnets by an order of magnitude. These results eventually led to the mandated use of pingers in a number of gillnet fisheries in the US and the technique has spread to other fisheries around the world. It also highlighted the monumental gains in bycatch reduction that could be achieved by having science and industry working in partnership.

Influence by our prior successes, we launched the Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction in 2005 as a science-industry partnership to reduce bycatch in threatened non-target animals. In addition to the New England Aquarium, the founding members included Blue Water Fishermen’s Association, Duke University, Maine Lobstermen’s Association and the University of New Hampshire.

The Consortium’s goal is to assist the recovery of endangered and threatened species by supporting collaborative research between scientists and the fishing industry that leads to reduced risks of entanglement in commercial or recreational fishing gear. The Consortium’s focus is on three primary areas:

Understanding interactions between threatened non-target species and fishing operations
The Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction is working on research to understand the nature of interactions between endangered non-target species and fishing operations primarily in the northwest Atlantic. These studies have focused on loggerhead sea turtles, pilot whales and the North Atlantic right whale.

Research and development of bycatch reduction approaches

Collaborative research is also underway to develop fishing devices and methods that reduce bycatch of sea turtles and large whales in the Northwest Atlantic.

Facilitating global exchange of information on bycatch reduction technologies

The Consortium developed the Bycatch Reduction Database to facilitate information sharing between scientists, fishermen and fisheries managers.