To help improve regulatory advice, ABPmer has been appointed by Defra and the MMO to improve understanding of how seals interact with commercial fisheries and to review options for non-lethal measures to deter seals from taking catches. A survey of opinions from commercial fishermen is part of the brief.
Depredation is an issue for static net fisheries throughout English waters, and particularly the south-west, north-east and north-east. This leads to significant economic costs from loss of commercial catch, increased gear handling or gear damage.
‘Current regulatory advice is that prior to shooting, all non-lethal deterrent methods should be tried, but effective non-lethal seal deterrent alternatives to shooting do not currently exist for application from fishing vessels in open water,’ said Suzannah Walmsley, Principal Fisheries Consultant at ABPmer.
‘This study will help extend regulator knowledge and understanding of the seal depredation issue in English fisheries and will allow the MMO to provide fishermen with robust practical advice on how to deter seals using non-lethal methods.’
ABPmer is working with the NFFO and will be asking commercial fisherman to share their experiences on interactions with seals including the gear types, the fish species taken, the proportion of catches that have been affected and whether the problem occurs more frequently in particular locations or at certain times of the year.
Following the data gathering exercise, ABPmer will review non-lethal measures, gear modifications and fishing tactics currently available to reduce seal depredation and bycatch for static net fisheries. Field tests of the most promising non-lethal deterrent options will then be undertaken within one or more of the fisheries where seal interactions are a significant issue.
ABPmer regularly undertakes fisheries and aquaculture research, data analysis and offers advice to a range of clients including government departments, statutory bodies, industry, Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) and NGOs.