Incidental mortality and injury (“bycatch”) in fisheries is a threat to the conservation and welfare of marine mammals including cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and seals, and the UK Government and Devolved Administrations remain committed to tackling this issue as well as ensuring that our practices align with international standards.
We are therefore introducing a requirement for all wild-capture commercial fishers to report any incidental mortality and injury (bycatch) of marine mammals during fishing operations to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) within 48 hours of the end of the trip. The MMO will be coordinating the collection of bycatch data on behalf of all administrations. This requirement will be incorporated into licences and will be enforceable from 15th November 2021.
The data will feed into UK bycatch monitoring programmes and help identify, and where possible reduce, any potential fisheries interactions with sensitive marine species, including marine mammals. This requirement aligns with a broader programme of work to meet the Fisheries Act ecosystem objective that “incidental catches of sensitive species are minimised and, where possible, eliminated”. This is also necessary in order for the UK to continue exporting wild-capture seafood to the US from 1st January 2023 as required by the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Information will be reported by submitting an online form or, if preferred, by telephone. Data required as per the licence condition is limited to:
- Vessel name
- Vessel registration number
- Interaction date
- Approx. interaction time
- Approx. location (lat/long)
- Species of marine mammal
- Gear type
- Target species
- Whether an observer is present
- Any other information
- Action taken (if any)
The Department invites views on the proposed licence condition and reporting process. Please respond using the following email address: Marine.Wildlife@daera-ni.gov.uk