Working Group on Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC)
Six Terms of Reference (ToRs; Annex 2) were addressed during the meeting through plenary and subgroups. The 2019 report is structured in the same order as the ToRs. Contributions to ToRs were requested in advance of the meeting and all data submissions were requested via a formal WGBYC/ICES data call (Annex 7). The data call requested data on fishing effort, monitoring ef-fort and protected species (marine mammals, seabirds, reptiles and fish) bycatch incidents in 2017. Of the 24 countries contacted, 20 responded to the data call. Many countries continue to submit data late (one-third) and the quality of the data submissions is variable. The data call referred to bycatch of fish, as per the list provided in Table 1D of the Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/1251 adopting a Multiannual Union Programme (EU-MAP); however, WGBYC this year reviewed this list to create a priority fish bycatch list since many of the species on D1 are commercially caught and other scientific bodies, e.g. ICES expert groups, carry out assessments for these.
Member States (MS) reports on the implementation of Regulation 812/2004 during 2017 were reviewed. Most MS continue to monitor protected species bycatch using fisheries observers con-ducting sampling under the Data Collection Framework (DCF); only a few countries have a ded-icated bycatch observer programme. With the upcoming repeal of Regulation 812/2004 in 2019, WGBYC will in future receive its data from monitoring under EU-MAP. Monitoring of smaller vessels (<15m) in the European fleet has to date generally been poor, and sampling designs under EU-MAP need to ensure representative coverage of relevant metiers for protected species by-catch. In 2017, bycatch records from the datacall included 148 cetaceans (5 species); 63 seals ( 4 species), 528 birds (22 species); 97,816 elasmobranchs (49 species) and 15 turtles (2 species). Equivalent data from non-EU countries was also received from the USA and Iceland.
MS’s compliance with the pinger requirements of Regulation 812/2004 is difficult to gauge from the submitted reports, as there are reporting inconsistencies and in-complete information. Only the UK appears to comply fully and reported that all relevant vessels are equipped with “DDD” pingers used under a derogation and there is active enforcement in place. But in general, there has been little progress in the mitigation of cetacean bycatch and the effectiveness of pingers appears to vary between with fishing metiers and geographical areas.
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