Each fishery presents its own challenges for observers to document bycatch. The North Carolina (NC) stop net fishery is especially challenging because it uses anchored gear (the stop net) that soaks up to 15 days to herd fish, which are then hauled to shore via another gear (a beach seine). Three Tursiops truncatus (Bottlenose Dolphin) entanglements in stop nets and six Bottlenose Dolphin strandings, each suspected of having been entangled in stop net gear based on injuries noted (lesions) and spatio-temporal overlap with the fishery, were documented by the NC Marine Mammal Network between 1992 and 2007. In 2001–2002, new observational techniques and surveys were used to observe this fishery to estimate bycatch and to document dolphin behavior around the gear. Techniques included observations from the beach during net retrievals and in situ surveys using a vessel with a sonar-video camera system. No entangled dolphins were observed, and, in fact, observations indicated dolphins were not attracted to stop nets and generally changed direction to avoid the gear. Nonetheless, characteristics of the fishery impose severe limitations on the efficacy of bycatch observer methods, rendering those results unreliable. Given low levels of known or suspected entanglements and the challenges of observing this fishery, stranding network data may be the most practical and effective method to monitor dolphin bycatch.
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