As his boat lurched between the waves off Peninsular Malaysia, the fisher took care to attach acoustic pingers to his gillnets before lowering them. While this was a new practice for him, it was essential because his nets could accidentally ensnare other animals besides fish. Bycatch—the unintended capture of marine wildlife in commercial fishing gear—is a major threat to marine mammals since their habitat often overlaps popular fishing grounds. This year, MareCet launched a new project working with local fishers to test these acoustic pingers in an effort to reduce bycatch of endangered dolphins and other cetaceans.
Fishers who participate in MareCet’s Cetacean Bycatch Mitigation Project, the first of its kind for marine mammals in Malaysia, attach the pingers to their nets during fishing expeditions. These pingers emit high-pitched sounds that are meant to ward the dolphins away from the nets, preventing them from becoming entangled. By involving fishers in the trial of simple, low-cost techniques that won’t negatively impact their target catch, MareCet is making it easy for fishers to adopt these bycatch mitigation interventions.
Feedback from fishers will help MareCet fine-tune the deployment of bycatch reduction devices and they will gauge the project’s effectiveness through on-site monitoring and periodic checks of the fishers’ catches. If successful, MareCet hopes to expand this innovative solution throughout Malaysia and share techniques with neighboring Southeast Asian countries to benefit fishers and keep marine mammals out of their nets.