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Bycatch in marine fisheries is, and long has been, one of the leading sources of human-caused mortality of marine mammals. It has contributed to substantial declines of many populations and species, and at least one species extinction. One well-established approach for managing the anthropogenic impacts of ...

Bycatch in marine fisheries is, and long has been, one of the leading sources of human-caused mortality of marine mammals. It has contributed to substantial declines of many populations and species, and at least one species extinction. One well-established approach for managing the anthropogenic impacts of fishing on marine mammal populations involves identifying the fishery or fisheries of concern, collecting data on abundance and bycatch, estimating levels of removal that populations can likely sustain, and implementing regulations or taking other approaches to achieve management goals. The Potential Biological Removal framework established under the USA’s Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) identifies a level of human-caused mortality that, with high probability, will allow marine mammal populations to remain at, or recover to, their levels of maximal production, and it prescribes a process for achieving this. Interest in developing similarly robust assessment frameworks for marine mammal bycatch in fisheries is expected to increase worldwide due to the recently-implemented seafood import provisions of the MMPA, which stipulate that managers and other stakeholders in exporting countries need to be able to implement reliable, standardized methods for collecting and analyzing data to estimate abundance and bycatch rates.

Managers tasked with understanding, quantifying and mitigating marine mammal–fishery interactions will often be starting with little or no data and with no system in place to collect data. The absence of either the data to evaluate bycatch impacts or a plan to collect such data for fisheries that export to the USA could lead to the products from those fisheries being prohibited from entering the USA, with severe implications for associated fishing communities, some of which are in poor and developing countries. The aims of this Research Topic are to increase the number of marine mammal populations for which abundance and bycatch can be estimated and to help identify which fisheries are most urgently in need of mitigation.

The papers for this Research Topic should contribute to the science of assessing marine mammal populations subject to bycatch. Examples of novel field and analytical methods for estimating abundance and bycatch and for calculating conservation reference points that can be used to prioritize and guide mitigation strategies are particularly welcome. We are looking for contributions that offer creative assessment solutions for regions with limited or no data and where funding for monitoring is hard to come by, or in which governance, logistical or other challenges make conventional approaches to assessment impractical. We also welcome case studies on assessment of marine mammal bycatch and resulting mitigation outcomes.

Keywords: Abundance surveys, Bycatch estimation, Conservation, Population ecology, Population models, Potential Biological Removal, Recovery, Seafood Import Rule


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