Fishing Gear Is Altered to Ease Collateral Costs to Marine Life

In the world of environmental regulation, where the hope is to write rules that both industry and science can live with, few areas are as contentious as fishing. Especially on the East Coast, fishermen attack scientists as mired in bottomless ignorance about how fish are actually caught. Scientists sometimes describe fishermen as racing to catch the last fish, regardless of the harm to vanishing species. But new efforts to protect marine creatures have gained surprising support from researchers, regulators, engineers and fishermen.

North Atlantic right whales. Photo courtesy of New England Aquarium

The issue is bycatch — fish, whales, turtles, sea birds and even corals killed or injured by fishermen in search of other species. The best-known example is dolphin caught in tuna nets, but the problem is far more extensive than that.

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