Interaction with fishing gear can incidentally injure and kill cetaceans and is a leading human-related cause of mortality and serious injury for multiple cetacean species (including North Atlantic right whales and harbor porpoise in the Atlantic Ocean, bottlenose dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, humpback whales in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and false killer whales in the Pacific Ocean). NMFS works with the fishing industry and other experts to develop or modify fishing gear and practices to minimize bycatch. The MMPA requires NMFS to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in commercial fishing operations to insignificant levels approaching a zero mortality and serious injury rate. NMFS publishes an annual List of Fisheries classifying each commercial fishery based on whether it has frequent (Category I), occasional (Category II), or a remote likelihood of or no known (Category III) incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals. Fishermen operating in Category I or II fisheries must register with NMFS, carry an observer if requested, and comply with any applicable take reduction plan regulations.
NMFS develops and implements take reduction plans to reduce the mortality and serious injury of strategic marine mammal stocks that interact with Category I and II fisheries to a zero mortality and serious injury rate. A strategic stock is one which is listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under the ESA, is declining and likely to be listed under the ESA, is listed as depleted under the MMPA, or has direct human-caused mortality which exceeds the stock's "Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level" (defined as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population). NMFS convenes stakeholder-based Take Reduction Teams, which consist of a balance of representatives from the fishing industry, fishery management councils, State and Federal resource management agencies, the scientific community, and conservation organizations to prepare take reduction plans. Once a take reduction plan becomes effective, the team meets periodically to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the plan. There are currently seven active take reduction teams.
In 2004, NMFS published a report titled, “Evaluating Bycatch: A National Approach to Standardized Bycatch Monitoring Programs.” The report describes a National Bycatch Strategy for monitoring bycatch in U.S. fisheries. The U.S. subsequently released a National Bycatch Report; the most recent update was published in 2016 and is based on data from 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. The National Bycatch Report provides a comprehensive quantification of bycatch estimates in U.S. commercial fisheries and may provide a basis for setting bycatch management goals in the future. The 2016 report discusses impacts of bycatch on protected species, including cetaceans, in U.S. federal and select state commercial 10 fisheries where data and estimation procedures are available to support the development of bycatch estimates. The 2016 National Bycatch Report can be found online at http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/observer-home/first-edition-update-2. During 2018, the National Bycatch Report is being updated to include bycatch during 2014 - 2017 and a National Bycatch Reduction Strategy Implementation Plan is be developed for 2018 - 2022.
Interaction with fishing gear can incidentally injure and kill cetaceans and is a leading human-related cause of mortality and serious injury for multiple cetacean species (including North Atlantic right whales and harbor porpoise in the Atlantic Ocean, bottlenose dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, humpback whales in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and false killer whales in the Pacific Ocean).