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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 702:123-137 (2022)  -  DOI:

Bycatch in the West Greenland lumpfish fishery, with particular focus on the common eider population

Flemming Ravn Merkel1,2,*, Søren Post1, Morten Frederiksen2, Zita Bak-Jensen3, Julius Nielsen1, Rasmus Berg Hedeholm3

1Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Kivioq 2, PO Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
2Department of Ecoscience, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
3Sustainable Fisheries Greenland, Jens Kreutzmannip Aqq. 3, PO Box 73, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Incidental bycatch is a well-known challenge in gillnet fisheries throughout the world, and the fishery for North Atlantic lumpfish Cyclopterus lumpus roe is no exception. In Greenland, the fishery was Marine Stewardship Council-certified in 2015 but has pending conditions related to bycatch quantification, enforcement and mitigation strategies. To improve this situation and to assess the potential impact of bycatch, we collected independent on-board observer data on non-target fish and seabirds over 2 seasons (2019 and 2021). We recorded 6 fish species, but the only species constituting >1% of the lumpfish landings was the spotted wolffish Anarhichas minor. The bycatch of fish likely had little impact on the involved fish stocks. We recorded 4 seabird species, of which common eider Somateria mollissima was most common. When extrapolated to the entire West Greenland lumpfish fishery, the estimated bycatch of common eider was considerably higher in 2019 (19938; 95% CI: 3486-59661) than in 2021 (9802: 1260-29940) due to a longer fishing season in 2019. On average, for 2019 and 2021, the bycatch was modelled to reduce the growth potential for the West Greenland winter population by 51%. In comparison, the current hunting level (16538 birds yr-1) reduced the growth potential by 30%. The larger impact of bycatch was mainly due to a larger proportion of adults and females being targeted. The common eider bycatch impacts mainly the breeding population in Canada and Southwest Greenland and less so in Northwest Greenland. As mitigation, we recommend temporal closures of the fishery unless modified gillnets, which markedly reduce bycatch, become available.

KEY WORDS: Seabird bycatch · Common eider · Somateria mollissima · Lumpfish fishery · Cyclopterus lumpus · Non-target fish · Greenland

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Cite this article as: Merkel FR, Post S, Frederiksen M, Bak-Jensen Z, Nielsen J, Hedeholm RB (2022) Bycatch in the West Greenland lumpfish fishery, with particular focus on the common eider population. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 702:123-137.

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