Building a better fish trap: WCS reduces fish bycatch with escape gaps in Africa

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Posted October 8, 2013
Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute have achieved a milestone in Africa: they’ve helped build a better fish trap, one that keeps valuable fish in while letting undersized juvenile fish and non-target species out.
Building a better fish trap: WCS reduces fish bycatch with escape gaps in Africa
A trap fisher modifies an African basket trap with escape gaps. Researchers from WCS and the Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute have found that escape gaps trap market-sized fish while allowing undersized and non-target fish to escape. According to a recent study, escape gaps help protect marine resources while boosting profits for fishing communities. Credit: Ines Gomes

By modifying conventional African basket traps with escape gaps, the marine researchers have proven that the new traps catch larger fish, allow more undersized and non-target fish to escape, increase profits, and—most importantly—minimize the impact of fishing on coastal reef systems. The findings, say researchers, will help fishing communities boost profits while protecting their vital marine resources.

A paper on the experimental study appears in the current edition of Fisheries Research. The authors include E.K. Mbaru of the Coral Reef Conservation Project and the Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute; and Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“One of the great challenges in coastal fisheries is how to reduce the levels of bycatch for reef systems where these species play important ecological roles,” said Dr. Tim McClanahan, co-author of the study and head of WCS’s coral reef research and conservation program. “Our modified traps have made a statistically measurable difference in minimizing bycatch for African basket traps. Such innovations can make a big difference in maintaining the ecology of vital coastal resources.”

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