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Conserv Biol. 2012 Dec;26(6):957-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01939.x. Epub 2012 Sep 18.

Use of fully biodegradable panels to reduce derelict pot threats to marine fauna.

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1
Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, PO Box 1346, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA. donnab@vims.edu

Abstract

Fishing pots (i.e., traps) are designed to catch fish or crustaceans and are used globally. Lost pots are a concern for a variety of fisheries, and there are reports that 10-70% of deployed pots are lost annually. Derelict fishing pots can be a source of mortality for target and bycatch species for several years. Because continual removal of derelict gear can be impractical over large spatial extents, modifications are needed to disarm gear once it is lost. We tested a fully biodegradable panel with a cull or escape ring designed for placement on the sides of a crab pot that completely degrades into environmentally neutral constituents after approximately 1 year. This panel is relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and can be used in multiple fisheries. We used the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) fishery as a test case because it is a large pot fishery and blue crab pots are similar to traps used in other pot fisheries. We had commercial fishers deploy pots with panels alongside standard pots in Chesapeake Bay (U.S.A.) to assess potential effects of our experimental pots on blue crab catch. We compared the number, biomass, and size of crabs captured between standard and experimental pots and evaluated differences in catch over a crabbing season (March-November) at five locations. There was no evidence that biodegradable panels adversely affected catch. In all locations and time periods, legal catches were comparable in abundance, biomass, and size between experimental and standard pots. Properly designed biodegradable panels appear to be a viable solution to mitigate adverse effects of derelict pots.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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