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July 2023 - December 2024


In fisheries, bycatch of non-target species is typically managed with fleet-level controls, such as technology requirements, fleet-wide bycatch quotas, or time-area closures. Although these approaches have successfully reduced bycatch of some threatened or protected species in certain cases, they can have high socioeconomic costs for fisheries. Some of the more straightforward bycatch problems have been resolved, but fisheries are now grappling with more complex challenges such as small cetaceans in set nets, sharks and rays in a variety of gears, and many small-scale or multi-species fleets.

These issues urgently need to be addressed without overburdening fishers and managers or imposing excessive costs on industry.

One largely untapped source of innovation is the fishers themselves. Exploration of a variety of gear types and non-target species indicates that certain operators can maintain high target catch rates while having low bycatch rates across, and this pattern was evident in a range of fisheries (Roberson & Wilcox, 2022).

If this variability is consistent across different fisheries contexts, the implication is that some fishers have already developed effective bycatch reduction strategies, even for problematic species or unselective fishing methods.


This suggests there is opportunity to help tackle bycatch problems that have been difficult and expensive to address with current approaches by investigating the practices of the most efficient operators in a fishery. Our theory is that bycatch solutions should be generated by the fishers, with management bodies providing the appropriate regulation, support, and resources to enable fisheries to improve. 



We are building an international working group to explore alternative, lower-cost solutions to fisheries bycatch and best practices for engaging with fishing industries.

The activities will take place through a combination of online collaboration, small group meetings, and larger workshops.

Project Activities

1. Analysis of case-study data sets

We are testing whether the pattern of variable operator performance is evident in different fisheries around the world, including different gear types, geographic areas, bycatch types, and both industrial and "small-scale" fisheries.

How does this work?

  • We have developed a statistical routine to analyse operator/vessel variability in bycatch rates. Essentially, this is a BPUE (bycatch per unit effort) standardization. The difference is we take additional steps to isolate the vessel or "skipper effect" from the many other factors that influence bycatch rates, such as fishing location, depth, season, amount of gear in the water. 

  • To do this, working group members contribute high resolution historical or current datasets (e.g., scientific observer programs, onboard cameras, quality-checked logbooks, crew member surveys).

  • The data analysis is a collaborative process with management and industry stakeholders to interpret the results and implications for each fishery case study.  ​


Expected outcomes

  • A rigorous analysis of the key drivers of bycatch and the range of operator performance within the case study fishing fleets.

  • Detailed, confidential results and feedback will be delivered to data owners and managers. any publicly available results will be anonymized, with all vessel-identifying information removed).

  • An open-source method for analyzing operator variability and developing data-driven performance standards that are based on the performance of efficient operators within a fishing fleet.

  • The goal is to build on this first project phase and develop tools to operationalize this concept into management frameworks. 

2. Develop best practice guidelines for industry engagement

Collate and the experience and knowledge of the working group members to develop guidelines for successful engagement with a fishing industry. ​​This builds a foundation for future work focusing on implementing this concept into management frameworks and propagating low impact fishing practices across an industry.

Expected outcomes

Co-author a white paper outlining best practices and recommendations for scientists and managers to effectively collaborate and engage with fishers and industry stakeholders. 


Interested in participating?

  • The initial project runs from July 2023 - December 2024 and is supported by funding from the Minderoo Foundation and the University of Queensland.

  • There is no cost for working group members/data owners.

  • It is not necessary to contribute data to participate in the working group.

  • The intention is to follow the first phase of the project with a second project focusing on further exploration of bycatch avoidance tactics in different contexts, capacity building, and implementation into management frameworks.

  • For more information about this project, please contact Leslie Roberson (

Meet the Chief Investigators

Additional Information


1 / Data and Confidentiality Protocols

  • High resolution data are needed to isolate the individual “operator effect” from the many factors affecting bycatch availability (e.g., season, location, target species).

  • We implement procedures to ensure the integrity, security, and proper utilization of these data while safeguarding the confidentiality of sensitive information. 

  • Specific requirements for data anonymity and confidentiality can be accommodated to meet the needs of each data owner.

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