Reducing bycatch of diving birds in Greenland lumpfish gillnets

Sustainable Fisheries Greenland and Greenland lumpfish

Amount awarded £46,381

This project will quantify bycatch in the MSC certified West Greenland lumpfish fishery and look for ways to minimise it. The fishery was recertified in February 2021 and has reduced its bycatch of diving birds, but a condition of certification is to work on reducing bycatch levels further.  

Birds can become entangled when diving close to gillnets, and even a relatively low number of deaths can put additional pressure on populations that are already vulnerable. Currently there are no good mitigation measures publicly available to fisheries that both protect birds without significantly reducing the amount of seafood they can catch. 

Through their Science and Research Fund grant, Sustainable Fisheries Greenland will collect data on bycatch levels and evaluate the effects of the fishery on bird populations. If there are particularly high rates of bycatch in certain areas or at certain times, the fishery could temporarily close to avoid bycatch. But this could seriously affect the livelihoods of fishers, and so the project will also test alternate ways of reducing bycatch, such as changing the nets used. Gillnets will be modified by adding a bright white mesh to the bottom, helping diving birds to see it more easily.  

If proven to be effective, the modified gillnets could be a simple solution that could help many other fisheries reduce bycatch of diving seabirds and unwanted fish species without affecting their productivity.  

Without this funding, there would be little progress making us unable to increase the understanding of bycatch dynamics and impossible for the fishery to improve. We want to signal our commitment to sustainability globally and MSC helps us do that.

Rasmus Hedeholm Sustainable Fisheries Greenland

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