A loggerhead sea turtle swims in the water
Philip Miller
A loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) seen in the ocean near Uruguay. Dynamic ocean management, which would close parts of the ocean in accidental-catch hotspots, would help protect turtles like this from being accidentally caught during fishing operations.

Accidentally trapping sharks, seabirds, marine mammals, sea turtles and other animals in fishing gear is one of the biggest barriers to making fisheries more sustainable around the world. Marine protected areas — sections of the ocean set aside to conserve biodiversity — are used, in part, to reduce the unintentional catch of such animals, among other conservation goals.

Many nations are calling for protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 from some or all types of exploitation, including fishing. Building off this proposal, a new analysis led by the University of Washington looks at how effective fishing closures are at reducing accidental catch. Researchers found that permanent marine protected areas are a relatively inefficient way to protect marine biodiversity that is accidentally caught in fisheries. Dynamic ocean management — changing the pattern of closures as accidental catch hotspots shift — is much more effective. The results were published Jan. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We hope this study will add to the growing movement away from permanently closed areas to encourage more dynamic ocean management,” said senior author Ray Hilborn, a professor at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Also, by showing the relative ineffectiveness of static areas, we hope it will make conservation advocates aware that permanent closed areas are much less effective in reducing accidental catch than changes in fishing methods.”

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