Say Goodbye to Bycatch: Fishing Smarter in the 21st Century

Overfishing is a serious threat to the world's oceans due to the quantity of commercial fisheries and the volume of by-catch. Here, dawn casts a golden glow over the commercial fishing ships in Newport, Oregon where DigiCatch underwent sea trials aboard an industrial trawler. Photo by Rob Terry.

The Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund aims to protect the last wild places in the ocean while facilitating conservation, research, education, and community development programs in the places we explore. This blog entry spotlights some of the exciting work our grantees are doing with support from the LEX-NG Fund.

By Angela M. Thomas

Fishing nets are blind. They have been for thousands of years.

Just like our ancestors, today’s commercial fishermen drop their nets, or “trawls”, into dark, opaque waters. What they pull up is anyone’s guess.

In addition to the fish being targeted, their trawls also contain “by-catch”: unintended fish species and ocean wildlife that are tossed back because they cannot be sold. The thing is, by the time the nets are hauled up, most of the by-catch is already dead.

So what’s the problem with catching a few extra fish?

What if I told you that by-catch is a major contributor to overfishing and poses a significant threat to the world’s oceans? Currently, in the United States, approximately 1 in 5 fish caught by commercial fishermen are by-catch. That’s 2 billion pounds of fish and other marine species wasted each year. Imagine inadvertently capturing, killing, and disposing of 4,800 blue whales…what an enormous, destructive waste.

Overfishing is a serious threat to the world’s oceans due to the quantity of commercial fisheries and the volume of by-catch. Here, dawn casts a golden glow over the commercial fishing ships in Newport, Oregon where DigiCatch underwent sea trials aboard an industrial trawler. Photo by Rob Terry.

In attempting to solve the by-catch problem, Rob Terry, founder of SmartCatch, asked himself: what if commercial fisheries could see inside their trawls before they reel them in?

In 2014, the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund issued a grant to Rob Terry to develop SmartCatch’s Digital Catch Monitoring System, or —> Read More

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