Past Research Projects

Gear Conversion as a Means to Reduce Bycatch and Habitat Impacts in the U.S. West Coast Sablefish Fishery, 2008

Bycatch and habitat damage are two of the major problems facing fisheries. Changing the type of fishing gear used can be an effective way to mitigate these problems. However, current fishing regulations often prohibit fishers from changing the type of gear they use to catch a certain fish unless they purchase an additional--often costly--permit. This study examined the socio-cultural feasibility and ecological impacts of gear substitute as a means to reduce bycatch and habitat impacts of fisheries. The focus of the research was the U.S. west coast sablefish fishery, because this fishery uses three different gear types—bottom trawls, bottom longlines, and fish pots—with no interchangeability between gear types. The study found that bycatch rates were highest in trawls and lowest in pots. Combining interview data with findings from a previous study, affirmed that habitat impacts were highest with trawls and lowest with longlines. Interviews yielded several common themes in the opinions of gear substitution. Positive opinion themes included that it would allow better management of the fish populations by reducing bycatch and would allow more business options, flexibility, and increased profit for some trawlers. The main negative opinion theme was that gear substitution could decrease landings needed to support shoreside infrastructure. Most stakeholder groups saw some benefit in gear substitution. Notably, the trawlers voiced a unanimous preference for converting to pots rather than longlines. A scenario analysis revealed that the preferable management option would be long-term gear conversion, but incentives are likely to be an important means of encouraging gear conversion. This study provided a regional assessment of bycatch and habitat impacts that had never been conducted before for these gear types. It also provided scientific support and partial-impetus for a regulatory change that went into effect in 2011 and that legally allows trawlers to practice gear substitution.

 

The Invention and Adoption of Conservation Technology to Successfully Reduce the Bycatch of Protected Marine Species, Dissertation, 2002-2006

To address problems such as bycatch, policy-makers are increasingly employing conservation technology, a management method that uses a device to protect organisms and/or habitat. Despite the increasing use of conservation technologies, the process of their invention and development remains poorly understood and problematic. Also, historically there have been difficulties with ensuring widespread, long-term, and proper use of conservation technologies. Dr. Jenkins' dissertation sought to answer the question of how best to successfully invent conservation technologies and secure their widespread, long-term adoption by examining two case studies:

 

  1. The use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to reduce the mortality of sea turtles in shrimp trawls in the U.S. shrimp fishery.
  2. The use of various conservation technologies to reduce the mortality of dolphins in the U.S. Eastern Tropical Pacific tuna purse-seine fishery.

 

Dr. Jenkins' thesis concluded that:

 

  1. development of conservation technologies occurs in and ought not be divorced from a social context;
  2. the most widely adopted conservation technologies have been conceived, invented, or modified by fishers;
  3. participants in the invention network often fail to recognize the expertise of fishers, and thus fishers are marginalized in the invention network;
  4. both Sea Grant and the National Marine Fisheries Service used technology transfer methods that promoted conservation technologies awareness but not wide-spread adoption;
  5. some policy-makers and managers erroneously believed that a legislative mandate negates the need for individual adoption decisions;
  6. enforcement is not a substitute for nor can it assure true adoption;
  7. diffusion theory would be a more appropriate model than technology transfer to encourage wide-spread adoption; and
  8. adoption of conservation technologies is most likely when a commercially practical conservation technology is promoted with persuasive and informative extension activities and regulations are enforced.