Behavioural and welfare implications of a new slipping methodology for purse seine fisheries in Norwegian waters
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The release of unwanted fish from purse seines whilst still in the water is termed slipping and may lead to significant mortality following release. The objective of this study was to determine the fish welfare implications of a new slipping methodology in which fish are released via a discharge opening formed in the bunt end of the purse seine net. Video analyses of collective and individual level fish behaviour were undertaken in the Norwegian mackerel and herring purse seine fisheries, to quantitively describe slipping behaviour and to determine its driving factors. The majority of fish escaped the purse seine with the schooling structure intact as part of large groups towards the end of slipping process, increasing their speed following escape. However, there was also a tendency (24% of all escapes) to escape in a manner likely to impact negatively upon their welfare, with a breakdown in schooling structure and physical contact with the fishing gear and conspecifics. The tendency to express such welfare compromising behaviour was higher for mackerel than for herring, but was also influenced by the vessel releasing the fish, the amount of fish being slipped, how long the discharge opening had been open and the particular slipping event. These results provide important information for future science-based development of welfare friendly slipping practises.