Economic Impact of Marine Debris to Fisheries: Marine debris encounter reporting project
Download a summary handout of this project ( 1.47mb).
Awareness of marine debris has increased dramatically over the last few years, especially in Hawai‘i, where the nation’s first marine debris action plan was launched. One of the projects under this plan is a partnership project, begun in 2007, to study and quantify the rates of interaction of marine debris with Hawaii’s longline fishery and the consequent economic impact on the fishery. Economic research (e.g., being able to show impacts to resources in terms of dollar amounts) is an area of growing interest and importance in numerous conservation areas. This project is one of only a handful measuring these impacts and is an excellent example of cooperation between industry and government.
In the North Pacific Ocean, derelict fishing gear (mainly lost or discarded nets from fishing fleets based outside of Hawai‘i) is often found drifting within areas heavily fished by Hawaii’s longline fleet. Derelict fishing gear (DFG) impacts the longline fishery through active gear entanglement, vessel interactions, and catch interaction. The debris poses a safety hazard for crew (e.g., disentanglement of vessel fouled propeller) and impacts the fishery economically by immobilizing or slowing fishing operations. The main objectives of this partnership project are to better understand the overall impacts of DFG and to quantify the economic impact of marine debris on the Hawai‘i-based longline fishing industry.
Collecting data on the impacts to our nation’s fisheries is an important step in better understanding the impact of marine debris to living marine resources and navigation safety.
The NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) Observer Program is responsible for training longline observers to collect data on incidental sea turtle take and fishing effort. Observers are required aboard the Hawai‘i-based pelagic longline vessels targeting swordfish (shallow set, 100% coverage) and tuna (deep set, ~20% coverage). When researchers first looked at the last few years of observer records, they saw that longline vessels do run across DFG. These encounters frequently entangle the boat's own fishing line or propeller, resulting in downtime and costly repairs. These encounters pose both a safety hazard for crew to disentangle the vessel and an economic loss if fishing operations are immobilized or slowed.
A standard reporting form, the Marine Debris Encounter Report, is now used to record vessel, gear, and species interactions with marine debris. Data collection will provide a more accurate and consistent assessment of the economic impacts of marine debris on Hawaii’s longline fishing industry. Additionally, the project fosters a positive relationship between the NOAA PIRO Observer Program and the NOAA Marine Debris Program and can serve as a model for collaborations between observer programs and marine debris research in other regions. Information gained from this study will guide the development of new solutions to minimize the impacts to the longline fishing fleets.
The primary objective of this project is to gain a better understanding of the impacts of DFG on Hawai‘i-based longline fisheries. This will be achieved through data collected on DFG interactions with active fishing gear, vessels, and landed species via a standardized Marine Debris Encounter Report.
This cooperative program was launched in December of 2007. To date, hundreds of Marine Debris Encounter Reporting forms have been submitted. The most common encounter type is entanglement of fishing gear in derelict net debris. Comprehensive data analyses on economic impacts are currently underway by NOAA PIRO.
Typical conglomeration of derelict fishing net and rope found entangling fishing gear.
Typical encrusting organism found on derelict nets.
Derelict net at sea.