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‘Bycatch Beach’ event highlights ongoing plight of marine animals and need for protection

By Staff | Aug 18, 2016

Maui supporters of the initiative to expand the boundaries of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument pose with the “Bycatch Beach” exhibit in North Kaanapali. PHOTOS BY ANANDA STONE.

KAANAPALI – Following public meetings on Oahu and Kauai that demonstrated overwhelming public support for the initiative to expand the boundaries of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, an outreach exhibit known as “Bycatch Beach” was recently held in North Kaanapali to visually demonstrate the annual impact of bycatch on marine wildlife resulting from activities of the commercial longline fishing industry.

A total of 950 silhouettes depicting impacted marine wildlife were posted in the sand, with green representing sea turtles, red representing marine mammals such as dolphins and false killer whales, white representing seabirds, and most strikingly, the blue fins representing sharks of several species.

Each year, tens of thousands of marine animals – including sharks, rays, false killer whales, dolphins, sea turtles and seabirds – fall victim to the commercial longline fishing industry, according to the U.S. National Bycatch Report (www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/observer-home/first-edition-update-2).

These animals are considered “bycatch,” as they are economically unwanted or otherwise protected and illegal to sell for profit.

According to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument expansion supporters, bycatch causes animal welfare, economic, environmental and ecological concerns; animals that are discarded often suffer before dying; the loss of such species impacts the entire ocean ecosystem; and expanding the monument would provide additional protections for over 7,000 marine species.

Silhouettes posted in the sand, part of the exhibit “Bycatch Beach,” drew attention to the impacts of bycatch upon marine animals as a result of interactions with the commercial longline fishing industry.

According to Bycatch Beach Coordinator Inga Gibson of the Humane Society of the United States, “the primary response from people who saw the exhibit, including both residents and visitors, was shock. It’s clear that the display literally spoke ten thousand words, in this case representing the animal victims of bycatch. Mahalo to everyone who came to talk story about this issue, and we especially appreciate being joined by supporters from local government, West Maui Councilmember Elle Cochran and Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons.”