The use of devices to reduce bycatch in Venezuelan shrimp fisheries and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing

Alió J., L. Marcano, D. Altuve, G. Andrade, L. Villasmil, R. Alvarez, L. González, J. Sayegh, E. Trujillo, O. Pomares, A. Díaz, C. Torrens, G. Vizcaíno, M. Figueroa, J. Boada and A. Marval
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II Foro iberoamericano de los recursos marinos y la acuicultura
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Shrimp is one of the most valuable fishery resources of Venezuela, with landings about 12 400 t (2007) and worth more than US $35 million. Fishing is carried out along the coast; the industrial trawl fleet used to operate at depths between 10 and 120 m, while fishing with artisanal gears is done close to shore, in coastal lagoons, gulfs and in Lake Maracaibo at depths from 1 to 40 m. The latter represent 84% of landings, mainly from Lake Maracaibo. While only the shrimp is sold by the artisanal fleet, the industrial fleet also sells some fish species, crabs and mollusks. It is been estimated that discards can reach 100 thousand t per year. Due to differences in the spatial distribution of the shrimp and the bycatch, as well as the behavior of the shrimp, more selective fishing systems towards the shrimp were designed, or technological changes in nets were used to restrict the capture of bycatch or facilitate its release after entering the net. In this paper, discards were characterized and various technological changes were tested in nets of common use in shrimp fisheries of Venezuela. The tested systems were: the double lower rope in the industrial trawl; the "fish eye" in the artisanal trawl and the Suripera net. Discards in the industrial fleet were reduced very significantly with the double lower rope, between 26 and 32%, while the commercial catch was maintained or increased. In the artisanal fleet, fish eye allowed reductions of discards between 38 and 54%, without significantly affecting shrimp capture. The Suripera net is very selective, capturing 98% of shrimp, compared to the traditional seine which has 28% efficiency. The possibility of reducing discards is high in industrial or artisanal shrimp fleets operating with trawls, but the seine used by the artisanal fleet operating in Lake Maracaibo may have to be replaced with another more selective gear towards shrimp, like the bottom tangling net. These are examples of how to implement Article 8 of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing (selectivity of the arts in fishing operations) in fisheries of high environmental impact.