Ground breaking entanglement project!

BDMLR are extremely proud to be a partner in the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) collaboration to reduce marine entanglement in creel fishing gear. Today our report on the scale and impact of marine animal entanglements in Scotland has been published by NatureScot, which you can read now HERE.

This ground-breaking project, the first of its kind in the UK, has brought together commercial creel fishers, research scientists and marine mammal conservation and rescue charities to better understand the scale of entanglements in fishing gear and marine debris which have both welfare and conservation impacts on marine animals, causing injury, impairment and death. Entanglement is the largest identified cause of death due to human activity in minke and humpback whales in Scottish waters, and the only known cause of human-driven mortality in basking sharks and marine turtles. During at-sea surveys, over 22% of live minke whales observed on the west coast of Scotland showed evidence of previous entanglements.

The project involved interviewing 159 creel fishers about their fishing practices and their experience of entanglements. A total of 146 entanglements over a 10-year period were reported. Only a small fraction of these entanglements were previously known about, demonstrating that entanglements are hugely under-reported. The interviews also revealed that a wider range of species were involved than previously thought.

Fishers also participated in training events and workshops to promote best practice, reduce entanglement risk, and safely disentangle large marine animals from fishing gear. This training gave fishers the ability to call on each other and safely provide a rapid response to any entangled animal.

This research focussed on entanglements in fishing gear associated with the creel sector; however, cases involving monofilament line and trawl netting have also been observed.

The study was led by Nature Scot and supported by partners, the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. It was funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EU and Scottish Government funding).We are currently looking at funding opportunities for a proposed phase two of SEA. This would extend the research over a wider geographical area and examine entanglements in other types of fishing gears commonly used in the UK. It would also include further research on how fishing can be modified, as well as looking at the most high-risk areas and times for fishers to avoid.

Photo credit: Gudlaugur Ottesen