Efficiency of bycatch reduction devices in small otter trawls used in the Florida shrimp fishery


Steele, Philip, Theresa M. Bert, Kristine H. Johnston, and Sandra Levett
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Two bycatch reduction devices (BRDs)—the extended mesh funnel (EMF) and the Florida fisheye (FFE)—were evaluated in otter trawls with net mouth circumferences of 14 m, 17 m, and 20 m and total net areas of 45 m2. Each test net was towed 20 times in parallel with a control net that had the same dimensions and configuration but no BRD. Both BRDs were tested at night during fall 1996 and winter 1997 in Tampa Bay, Florida. Usually, the bycatch was composed principally of finfish (44 species were captured); horseshoe crabs and blue crabs seasonally predominated in some trawls. Ten finfish species composed 92% of the total finfish catch; commercially or recreationally valuable species accounted for 7% of the catch. Mean finfish size in the BRD-equipped nets was usually slightly smaller than that in the control nets. Compared with the corresponding control nets, both biomass and number of finfish were almost always less in the BRD-equipped nets but neither shrimp number nor biomass were significantly reduced. The differences in proportions of both shrimp and finfish catch between the BRD-equipped and control nets varied between seasons and among net sizes, and differences in finfish catch were specific for each BRD type and season. In winter, shrimp catch was highest and size range of shrimp was greater than in fall. Season-specific differences in shrimp catch among the BRD types occurred only in the 14-m, EMF nets. Finfish bycatch species composition was also highly seasonal; each species was captured mainly during only one season. However, regardless of the finfish composition, the shrimp catch was relatively constant. In part as a result of this study, the State of Florida now requires the use of BRDs in state waters.