Proposed Categories of Bycatch Based on an Assessment of Data from the Anilao Fish Port, Batangas, Philippines

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Bycatch is generally thought of as unwanted and unintentional catch, but this definition is very broad and ambiguous, as it does not apply to every fishery as seen in Southeast Asia. This has led to poor management plans and bycatch mitigation efforts. This study assesses baseline data on bycatch observed at the Anilao Fish Port, Batangas, Philippines. Fishermen, dealers, and vendors were interviewed regarding catch, fishing methods and equipment, market prices, and final destination of catch over a period of eight months in order to get data for the wet-warm, wet-cold and dry-cold seasons. Landed species were documented for photo identification using FishBase, then cross referenced with the IUCN Red List. A total of 35 species from 15 families, seven of which are considered bycatch, were observed during the visits. Many of these have not been evaluated by the IUCN. Based on three criteria (how targeted the species is, the action of fishermen on the fish upon the fish's capture, and the market value of the fish), six categories of bycatch were identified: A: species not actively targeted but kept if caught and eventually sold; B: species not actively targeted but retained if caught and given away for free; C: species not targeted due to lack of utility such as sickly or injured fish; D: species not caught because it is illegal to do so, but dead specimens are usually sold in the black market; E: species that are generally avoided, but if caught dead are usually used for consumption; and F: species that are generally avoided and released immediately when caught. The bycatch in Anilao Fish Port, such as Lutjanids, belong to category B. These categories can be used to describe other bycatch from neighboring countries in order to have a clearer definition on bycatch so authorities and programs will have a better picture of how certain countries view certain species of fish, which can lead to more effective and universal management plans, mitigation efforts and bycatch quantification. Having the different categories can help countries with many different islands and fishports (such as the Philippines) have a more concrete system of valuing biological resources and setting policies for both targeted and non-targeted species, which ultimately addresses the issue of overexploitation for fisheries. This is necessary because the fishing industry generates immense wastage and cost. Minimizing these with better management plans would mean a greater availability of food, a greater supply of resources for future utilization and consumption, and a healthier living environment for both marine and human life.