This report summarizes the symposium “Impacts of Fishing on the Environment”, which was part of the annual meeting of the joint ICES-FAO Working Group on Fishing Technology and Fish Behaviour (WGFTFB). The symposium comprised three one-day sessions: (i) low-impact and fuel-efficient fishing gear (LIFE); use of artificial light as a stimulus on fish behaviour in fish capture (LIGHT); and (iii) selectivity of trawls in multispecies/crustacean fisheries (SHRIMP). This report also summarizes presentations from the open session of the annual meeting, while details on the remaining sessions are provided in the WGFTFB meeting report produced by ICES.
The ICES-FAO WGFTFB annual meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 6–10 May 2013, the first time it had been hosted by FAO and held outside the ICES region. More than 130 fishing technologists, scientists and others representing 25 countries attended this meeting.
The LIFE session featured presentations on the performance of modified fishing gear, based on at-sea research or computer simulation. Overall, around the world, considerable research is focusing on LIFE fishing, which includes advances in fish and shrimp trawl fisheries, beam and pulse trawl fisheries for demersal finfish, tuna longline fisheries, pot fisheries for cod, and set net and boat seine fisheries for small pelagics. However, several presentations highlighted the lack of gear uptake by fishers, often despite clear environmental and economic benefits.
Many presentations in the LIGHT session described the benefits (e.g. reduced energy consumption) and application of LED lighting. It appears that LED lighting is increasingly replacing other light sources. The presentations were dominated by research from Asia, where light fishing is an important method. Other presentations focused on techniques to evaluate the visual ability of fish, squid and other animals, and how to use this knowledge to manipulate fish behaviour and increase catch rates.
The SHRIMP session included presentations on improving selectivity and reducing bycatch in a variety of fisheries. A main theme was the ongoing challenge of reducing bycatch, including the development of effective turtle excluder devices and bycatch reduction devices (BRDs), and their poor uptake and compliance by some fishers. Another theme was the importance of underwater video cameras to observe trawl performance, BRDs and response to trawl stimuli.
The symposium provided an opportunity for fishing technologists and others from ICES member countries to exchange knowledge and ideas with contemporaries from around the world, especially Asia. The main global theme to emerge was that of poor uptake and compliance of new fishing gear by fishers. The rationale for this behaviour by fishers is complex, and often inconsistent among fisheries and individual fishers. This issue remains a major challenge to sustainable fisheries development, and it is clear that much work remains in this area in many fisheries.