Campaign | Oceana USA

Responsible Fishing

Reducing Bycatch on U.S. Waters

Oceana works to reduce the accidental catch of non-target fish and wildlife in commercial fishing

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Bycatch is a significant problem in the U.S. that undermines successful fisheries management and wastes the ocean's living marine resources. The federal government is required to minimize bycatch and the deaths of unintentionally captured fish and protected species.

Oceana has identified nine fisheries that have some of the worst bycatch in the United States. These nine fisheries injure and kill thousands of species each year, including whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles and sharks. These fisheries combined discard and waste almost as much as they keep. They are responsible for more than 50 percent of reported bycatch in the U.S., but only bring in 7 percent of landings. In addition to ecological waste, bycatch also represents a great deal of economic waste: Oceana’s analysis calculates that discarded fish could be worth at least $1 billion annually. 

How can U.S. fisheries change course? More selective fishing methods should replace harmful gear types, and improvements must be made to accurately report bycatch and reduce the amount of fish that are discarded at sea. Making key changes such as counting everything that is caught, establishing bycatch limits, and using innovative management measures to control, avoid, and reduce bycatch over time will improve the resilience and economic viability of U.S. fisheries for generations to come.

  • Approx. 17-22 percent of U.S. catch is discarded every year
  • Discarded fish could be worth at least $1 billion annually
  • Each year throughout the 1990s 650,000 whales, dolphins & seals were killed worldwide as a result of bycatch

What is Bycatch?

U.S. Bycatch

U.S. Fisheries with the most bycatch

Solutions to Reduce Bycatch

What Oceana Does

Reducing Bycatch in U.S. Waters: The Oceana Approach

For more than a decade, Oceana has advocated to reduce bycatch and the unnecessary mortality of bycatch in the U.S. Oceana works fishery-by-fishery, as well as at the national level, to promote the Oceana Approach to bycatch: count all catch (including bycatch), cap bycatch using science-based limits, and control bycatch through effective management measures that will ensure bycatch limits are not exceeded and that bycatch is reduced over time.

Protecting Key Species

Oceana is committed to protecting marine wildlife. Certain fish species, whales, dolphins, sea turtles and seabirds are ecologically important and are a special concern because are either depleted or listed under the Endangered Species Act. Efforts to recover and rebuild populations are undermined when these animals are caught and killed as bycatch. To minimize and mitigate the higher risk these species face from bycatch, fisheries managers must consider additional options, including precautionary mortality limits, enhanced catch monitoring, spatial closures and alternative gears proven to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality.