Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Evaluating the Potential of Swordfish Buoy Gear as an Alternative to Pelagic Driftnets in the Artisanal Fisheries of Morocco and Turkey

Event Name/Location

63rd Annual Tuna and Billfish Conference, Los Angeles, California, May 21-24, 2012

Presentation Date


Document Type





Driftnet fisheries throughout the Mediterranean Sea historically targeted swordfish during nighttime sets. However, recent management actions by organizations such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for purposes of fisheries bycatch reduction have resulted in a large-scale displacement of fishing effort within local fishing communities. The so-called swordfish buoy gear developed in South Florida has shown consistently high catch rates when targeting swordfish and has the additional utility of being fished from small vessels. Although preliminary, economic analyses suggest that such smaller vessels not only receive a higher ex-vessel price per pound for their product, but that overall per-vessel profitability is higher than the nearby pelagic longline fishery.

As part of recent efforts to reduce sea turtle and marine mammal bycatch in global fisheries, the NOAA Office of International Affairs has sponsored the evaluation of this buoy gear type aboard artisanal vessels in both Morocco (western Mediterranean) and Turkey (eastern Mediterranean). The project with Turkey consisted of two phases during 2011. For phase one, three Turkish fishery scientists traveled to the United States in March to undergo first-hand training with swordfish buoy gear, as well as bycatch release training. Phase two consisted of fieldwork conducted in Turkey during May and June by two U.S. fishery scientists and a commercial swordfish captain from Florida to both train local Turkish captains on the gear type and to evaluate the gear in Turkish waters. Catch data, GPS, and vessel characteristics were recorded during the experimental testing of the gear. There was no sea turtle or marine mammal bycatch documented during a total of 15 observed sets in four locations. The catch rates for the swordfish buoy gear were low, although several environmental and regulatory factors potentially affected the effectiveness of the gear and consequently reducing the catch rates. The project with Morocco will occur in two phases as well during 2012. Phase one occurred in February, with one U.S. fishery scientist and a commercial swordfish captain from Florida traveling to Morocco to introduce the gear type, evaluate potential local suppliers of gear components, and conduct one night of fishing operations. Phase two will occur in two parts: the first in April and the other in June or July, with similar data collection protocols as the Turkish project.

This document is currently not available here.