Broadbill swordfish in the California Current are targeted through overnight deployment of gillnets that are several kilometers in length. This fishing technique is prone to high catch rates of nontarget species including loggerhead and leatherback turtles, beaked whales and California sea lions.

Broadbill swoardfish (Xiphias gladius), also known as North Pacific Swordfish, Emperado, A`u, Mekajiki, Shutome. Artwork: Les Hata © Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
Broadbill swoardfish (Xiphias gladius), also known as North Pacific Swordfish, Emperado, A`u, Mekajiki, Shutome. Artwork: Les Hata © Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

 

To address this problem, a team of scientists from several universities (San Diego State University, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Maryland, Old Dominion University, Stanford University) and NOAA fisheries developed a tool called “EcoCast” to help fishers minimize bycatch of protected or threatened species.

The EcoCast tool uses habitat suitability models and satellite-derived environmental data to predict where broadbill swoardfish and three bycatch species (leatherback turtle, blue shark and California sea lion) are likely to be each day. Daily EcoCast maps help fishers identify fishing spots minimize fisheries bycatch and maximize fisheries target catch.

EcoCast predictions for June 24, 2018. The map shows relative bycatch:target catch probabilities.
EcoCast predictions for June 24, 2018. The map shows relative bycatch:target catch probabilities.

 

The tool uses satellite data from NOAA, NASA and EUMETSAT including Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) wind data from NOAA CoastWatch and Blended Sea Winds from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The CoastWatch West Coast Regional Node is providing the data flow for the tools and serves EcoCast products through their ERDDAP server.

References and Related Reading

  • Hazen, L., K.L. Scales, S.M. Maxwell, D.K. Briscoe, H. Welch, S. J. Bograd, H. Bailey, S.R. Benson, T. Eguchi, H. Dewar, S. Kohin, D.P. Costa, L.B. Crowder and R.L. Lewison. 2018. A dynamic ocean management tool to reduce bycatch and support sustainable fisheries. Science Advances 4: eaar3001.