Date of this Version
A controlled experiment was carried out in 19961997 to determine whether acoustic deterrent devices (pingers) reduce marine mammal bycatch in the California drift gill net fishery for swordfish and sharks. Using Fisher’s exact test, bycatch rates with pingers were significantly less for all cetacean species combined (P < 0.001) and for all pinniped species combined (P = 0.003). For species tested separately with this test, bycatch reduction was statistically significant for shortbeaked common dolphins (P = 0.001) and California sea lions (P = 0.02). Bycatch reduction is not statistically significant for the other species tested separately, but sample sizes and statistical power were low, and bycatch rates were lower in pingered nets for six of the eight other cetacean and pinniped species. A log-linear model relating the mean rate of entanglement to the number of pingers deployed was fit to the data for three groups: short-beaked common dolphins, other cetaceans, and pinnipeds. For a net with 40 pingers, the models predict approximately a 12- fold decrease in entanglement for short-beaked common dolphins, a 4-fold decrease for other cetaceans, and a 3-fold decrease for pinnipeds. No other variables were found that could explain this effect. The pinger experiment ended when regulations were enacted to make pingers mandatory in this fishery.