Caught in the Net

Bycatch is the act of unintentionally catching certain living creatures using fishing gear. A bycatched species is distinguished from a target species (the animal the gear is intended to catch) because it is not sold or used. Marine mammals (whales, dolphins, porpoises), seabirds, sea turtles and unwanted or undersized fish are examples of animals caught as bycatch. The incidental capture of these animals can significantly reduce their populations. The most well known example of bycatch may be the unintentional mortality of spotted and spinner dolphins in the tuna fishing industry. The marketing of "dolphin-safe" tuna is a result of people realizing and opposing this. One important aspect to consider when discussing this issue is that laws protect some of the animals caught as bycatch (Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act). In this lesson, students are shown pictures of entangled marine animals and then learn the definition of bycatch. This leads to discussions on why bycatching exists, how it impacts specific animals as well as humans, whether the students believe it is an important issue, and how bycatch can be reduced.