Ray bycatch in a tropical shrimp fishery
Published online on 28. November 2015
Ray bycatch in a tropical shrimp fishery: Do Bycatch Reduction Devices and Turtle Excluder Devices effectively exclude rays ?
Tomas Willems, Jochen Depestele, Annelies De Backer, Kris Hostens
Worldwide, many species of elasmobranchs (Chondrichthyes: Elasmobranchii) are currently threatened by marine fisheries activity and are on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Although Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) for teleost fish and Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) are now widespread in tropical shrimp trawling, information on their ability to mitigate bycatch of elasmobranchs, particularly rays (Batoidea), is scarce and limited to only a few isolated fisheries. The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential of trawls fitted with a square-mesh panel BRD and super-shooter TED in reducing ray bycatch. In this study, 65 catch-comparison hauls were conducted in the Atlantic seabob shrimp (Xiphopenaeus kroyeri) fishery off Suriname. Trawls with a BRD and TED combination reduced ray catch rate by 36%. A 21% reduction in mean size indicated the preferential exclusion of large rays. Hence, high escape ratios were observed for Dasyatis geijskesi (77%), a large-sized species, while exclusion of the small species Urotrygon microphthalmum was not significant, although their disc width is small enough to pass through the meshes of the BRD. Furthermore, a size-dependent escape for the two most abundant mid-sized ray species Dasyatis guttata and Gymnura micrura was observed. Exclusion-at-size differed for both species, however, likely related to species-specific morphology or behavior in response to the TED. This study shows that the combination of BRD and TED causes an important reduction in ray bycatch in seabob shrimp fisheries off Suriname. The great reduction in catch of large-sized rays is positive, but the mortality of juvenile rays is likely to have negative consequences for their populations. We therefore recommend gear-based and non-gear adaptations to further reduce the bycatch of small-sized rays.
Fisheries Research, Volume 175, March 2016, Pages 35–42, doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2015.11.009