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Identifying social practices to inform fisheries management - the case of bycatch practices of marine mammals and seabirds of German gillnet fishers

Gillnets are one of the most common fishing gears globally and provide a fundamental contribution towards the income of millions of people as well as to the supply of protein. At the same time, bycatch from gillnet fisheries is one of the biggest threats to seabirds and marine mammals worldwide, because their habitats coincide spatially and temporally with gillnet fisheries. There has been research on technical solutions to unwanted bycatch, yet the social-science perspective is rather understudied. Little is known about fishers’ bycatch behaviour, which can be researched as a social practice. Against the background of Anthony Giddens’ structuration theory, this study used social sciences methods to analyse the bycatch practices of gillnet fishers in the German Baltic Sea. The results show that fishers normalize bycatch of seabirds as part of their fishing routine, while bycatch of marine mammals is experienced as a crisis. Underlying mechanisms for different bycatch practices are identified, and their meaning for management as well as further research questions are discussed. The perspective of normalizing and non-normalizing bycatch practices as well as fishers’ own mitigation strategies should be considered by fisheries management when addressing bycatch mitigation measures as they could be designed more effectively.



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