Fishing gear used to catch species, such as swordfish, end up killing large numbers of marine animals every year.
The problem is known as by-catch, but fisherman Tim Palmer is working on a method to help reduce by-catch while still harvesting the targeted species.
The method uses what is known as buoy gear. This gear uses shorter lines and fewer hooks.
Palmer hit upon the idea while fishing commercially for swordfish. Buoy gear uses a floating, lighted buoy with a single fishing line and maybe two baited hooks.
The technique for using buoy gear is to set out a straight line of buoys. Fishermen know something took the bait when a buoy gets out of line. Then, the fishermen can quickly haul in the fish or marine animal and either keep or toss it back.
Boats would use about 15 buoys to fish, compared to the nearly 40 miles of line traditionally used to catch swordfish. The gear could also replace some drifting gill nets that snare and kill any marine life that comes into contact with it.
Buoy gear is still being tested, and those who have tried it have had mixed results. Palmer realizes that the gear isn’t for everyone, but believes it can help in the effort to find more sustainable fishing methods.
Besides conservation benefits, there could be economic benefits to using buoy gear. First, fishermen can work closer to shore. That means the fish will be fresher and command a better price.
Also, fishermen won’t have to spend days and weeks setting and retrieving long lines, saving money.