International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
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Working Group on Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC)

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posted on 2022-03-21, 08:49 authored by ICESICES

New version: Subsection 10.2 was updated in March 2022.

The Working Group on Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC) was established in 2007 and collates and analyses information from across the Northeast Atlantic and adjacent sea areas (Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Seas) related to the bycatch of marine mammals, seabirds, turtles, and sensitive fish species in commercial fishing operations. Sensitive fish species were not considered at the 2021 meeting pending approval from the ICES Advisory Committee (ACOM) on fish species lists of bycatch interest that were developed at the ICES Workshop on Fish of Conservation and Bycatch Relevance (WKCOFIBYC) in 2020. WGBYC seeks to describe and improve under-standing of the likely impacts of fishing activities on affected populations at biologically relevant scales, to inform on the suitability of existing at-sea monitoring programmes for the quantification of robust bycatch estimates, and to collate information on and coordinate bycatch mitigation efforts at an international scale.

In 2021, the WG met by correspondence to address eight Terms of Reference (ToR), including a data scoping exercise as part of a special request on seabird bycatch from the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), which concluded that there was insufficient bycatch monitoring data from NEAFC waters to warrant further analyses at this time. The report also provides an overview of monitoring and fishing effort data contained in the WGBYC database for 2019 and 2020. This showed that during 2020, in most geographical areas of relevance, at-sea monitoring effort was significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Specific analyses were carried out to describe potential fisheries impacts (reported bycatch numbers, min/max bycatch rates and/or mortality estimates) for harbour seal in the Greater North Sea ecoregion and parts of the Baltic ecoregion, three turtle species in four Mediterranean ecoregions and in the Azores and Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast ecoregions, and several seabird species in six ecoregions (Adriatic, Baltic, Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast, Celtic Seas, Greater North Sea and Icelandic Waters). A risk-based approach, developed by WGBYC in 2020 to highlight monitoring gaps, was expanded using information from multiple sources and identified several high-risk métiers for bycatch which are relatively under-sampled by existing data collection programmes. Several members of WGBYC also participated simultaneously in the ICES Workshop on Estimation of Mortality of Marine Mammals due to Bycatch (WKMOMA) which ran over schedule due to data issues.

Data used by WGBYC on fishing effort, at-sea monitoring effort and bycatch records are primarily acquired through an ICES dedicated data call which has been issued annually to all ICES member states since 2018 and all non-ICES EU coastal states from 2021. Although data quality and quantity are improving, WGBYC reiterate that significant gaps remain in data collection efforts and in data resolution, that limits the Working Group’s ability to provide useful assessments of the likely impacts of fishing activity across a wide range of protected species and areas. WGBYC note that broadscale low level monitoring programmes may be insufficient to highlight very rare bycatch occurrences for populations at low abundance and/or low susceptibility to by-catch, but which could have significant population levels impacts.


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Expert Group or Strategic Initiative



ICES Scientific Reports





Contributors (Editors)

Allen Kingston, Guðjón Már Sigurðsson

Contributors (Authors)

Mikel Basterretxea; Arne Bjørge; Kim Magnus Bærum; Lucía Cañas Ferreiro; Ada Chatzispyrou Bram Couperus Christian von Dorrien; Peter Evans; Ruth Fernández; Caterina Maria Fortuna Nikolaos Fotiadis; Samuel Hardman; Claudia Junge; Ailbhe Kavanagh; Lotte Kindt-Larsen; Sven Koschinski; Sara Bonanomi; Sara Königson; Eugenia Lefkaditou; Ana Marçalo; Estanis Mugerza Simon Northridge; André Moan; Hélène Peltier; Carlos Pinto; Mika Rahikainen; Camilo Saavedra Penas; Marije Siemensma; Adam Woźniczka



Recommended citation

ICES. 2021. Working Group on Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC). ICES Scientific Reports. 3:107. 168 pp.