A huge problem in fishing practices is the issue of bycatch, the incidental catch of wildlife while catching targeted species. Bycatch can include species that are not eaten and therefore are not marketable, incorrect size of the targeted species, or banned or endangered species, like turtles, dolphins and other marine animals. Unfortunately, a great proportion of this bycatch is thrown back into the ocean wounded or dead.
Bycatch would decrease with the practice of sustainable fishing practices, most notably, the implementation of bycatch reduction devices (BRD). A BRD is an apparatus added to fishing gear that is meant to reduce the amount of non-target species caught during fishing activity.
So how do we in the Lowcountry try to couple regionally ubiquitous fishing methods, like crab traps, with BRDs?
Crab traps consist of one or more cages submerged on the waterbed and connected to the water’s surface by a rope and buoy. Along the South Carolina coast, crab traps typically used to catch blue crabs. In these cages, BRDs are usually metal or plastic rectangles placed in the entrance to the traps. When placed appropriately, BRDs will reduce the amount of non-target animals, such as diamondback terrapins, while still allowing for crabs to be caught.
Bycatch harms wildlife and wastes important food resources for humans and animals alike; BRDs are an important step in reversing this unnecessary waste and avoidable destruction of wildlife.