Sustainable Management of Bycatch in Latin America and Caribbean Trawl Fisheries (REBYC-II LAC)

In collaboration with FAO, INAPESCA and the Campeche shrimp producers, begin the 4th Experimental Fishing Cruise

Shrimp fisheries hold a very important place in food production in Mexico; among fishery products it represents the 2nd place by volume, the first for its value, and it is the main export product. However, bottom trawling, the main method of shrimp capture, is a fishing method that causes impacts to the ecosystem, since by capturing species other than shrimp, it affects biological diversity, also altering the food chain and even the seabed.

With the aim of minimizing these effects and promoting improvements aimed at the sustainability of this important fishery, FAO in coordination with INAPESCA, producers and regional institutions such as EPOMEX-UACAM, CETMAR-02 and Universidad Marista, have been working since 2016 to develop fishing systems that not only do not negatively affect the marine ecosystem, but also reduce the operating costs of the fishing fleet, in order to increase the profitability of the activity while preserving ecosystems.

So far, three experimental fishing campaigns have been carried out in the Campeche Sound, in which important advances have been made in terms of catching better-quality shrimp, reduction of bycatch and significant fuel savings for participant vessels. The results showed that alternative fishing gear markedly reduced the “Bycatch of Shrimp (FAC)”, but the shrimp yields were slightly lower compared with traditional gear. Similarly, juvenile organisms are efficiently excluded by prototype net designs. Another preliminary result obtained in the tests was that the so-called “Red Fantasma” reduced the volume of FAC by 19%, especially benthic species, compared to the traditional Campeche net. Derived from the evaluation of the results of these three cruises, and with the advice of FAO expert Dr. Steve Eayrs, it was decided to carry out a fourth research cruise, with an experimental design that integrates elements with the best results in the first three campaigns, and generate enough repetitions with statistical validity, according to international standards, to compare the performance of the “Fantasma” and Campeche designs.

Thus, on August 1, the REBYC-II LAC Project, with the participation of INAPESCA, the offshore “Sistema Producto” National Committee and with support from the Government of the State of Campeche, began the fourth and last Experimental Cruise of this study. The goal of this cruise is to provide a comparative analysis between the traditional nets and the prototype nets on the following indicators: 1. Determination of the Catch per Unit of Effort of shrimp (Kg / h); 2. Analysis of Selectivity in shrimp sizes; 3. Define the incidental catch rate (Kg / h) by different categories: a) shrimp; b) commercial fauna c) benthic FAC d) demersal FAC e) pelagic FAC and sizes; 4. Resistance of nets materials to trawling; and 5. continue the process of training the crews in the assembly, use and maintenance of the new devices. It is expected that with the results of this latest cruise, the necessary data will already be available to begin the process of adopting these new fishing systems by a greater number of vessels.

One of the challenges of this project is that the proposals for improvement in the different components are adopted by the fishing sector and other stakeholders in a voluntary and committed way, with due permanent monitoring for the sake of a sustainable fishery, with an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management.