NMFS recently released an update to the the U.S. National Bycatch Report, adding to the document overall bycatch trends for major U.S. fisheries for 2014 and 2015. Bycatch trends remain the same, but the agency continues to add fisheries data to enhance the scope of the project.

The report was first published in 2011 and has seen three updates. The report is designed to track overall bycatch trends and inform fishery monitoring priorities.

In 2014, the fisheries included in the national bycatch report landed approximately 6.78 billion pounds and discarded an estimated 840 million pounds. The fisheries included for 2015 landed approximately 6.54 billion pounds and discarded an estimated 814 million.

In each region, NMFS collects data used for bycatch estimation by collecting information from fishermen and through observer programs.

"NMFS is committed to compiling updated and new estimates in a timely manner. I am certain that you will find in these pages valuable insights into the nature of bycatch in our nation’s fisheries as well as steps that NMFS, together with our partners at the regional Fisheries Management Councils, is taking to improve the quality of bycatch estimates and to reduce bycatch levels," wrote NMFS Director of Scientific Programs Steven Murawski in the report's preface. "In particular, research in the area of fishing gear technology, development of electronic fishery monitoring techniques, and the implementation of catch shares and other accountability measures, are advancing our goal of meeting our bycatch reduction mandates."

In this update, the Greater Atlantic section includes 2014 and 2015 fish bycatch estimates for 34 and 35 commercial fisheries, compared with 24 fisheries for 2013. The list of fish species considered in the report expanded to well over 140 species for 2014 and 151 species for 2015, compared to 34 species for 2013.

Highlights for the Southeast section include new bycatch estimates for the Southeastern Atlantic shrimp trawl fishery, as well as bycatch numbers for the Southeastern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico shark bottom longline research fishery. The section also includes updated sea turtle bycatch estimates for Southeast shrimp trawl fisheries.

For Alaska, the report adds bycatch estimates for ten Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries under joint federal and state management.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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