Bycatch of bottlenose dolphins in South Carolina, USA, and an evaluation of the Atlantic blue crab fishery categorisation

Main Article Content

Leslie G. Burdett
Wayne E. McFee


In the USA, commercial fisheries that interact with marine mammals are categorised according to the number of incidental takes of marine mammals relative to the defined Potential Biological Removal (PBR) for the population. Three categories exist for such commercial fisheries: Category I, II and III, each varying in the degree of regulation. Fishery categorisation is based on a five-year running average of the number of incidental entanglements in that fishery and is published annually in the Federal Register. The Atlantic blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) fishery is one of South Carolina’s largest commercial fisheries in terms of volume and value and was recently re-categorised as a Category II fishery, resulting in heightened regulation. The Atlantic blue crab fishery exists in known areas of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) habitat; therefore, interaction between the two is probable. This study uses historical marine mammal stranding data and on-board investigations of the blue crab fishery in South Carolina to investigate the degree of fishery and dolphin interaction. Analysis of historical strandings showed that approximately 24% of the 42 entanglement cases in South Carolina from 1992-2003 resulted from the blue crab fishery. In nine of the 12 years examined, bottlenose dolphin mortality rates were found to be greater than or equal to 10% of the South Carolina Management Unit’s PBR, which is significant according to the US Marine Mammal Protection Act’s (MMPA) definitions for the Atlantic Coastal Stock of bottlenose dolphins. In addition, results from this study showed that the average number of bottlenose dolphin entanglements per year in the South Carolina blue crab fishery has exceeded 1% of PBR across a five-year period (1999-2003), which defines a Category II fishery. Thus, entanglement data from South Carolina from 1992-2003 support the re-categorisation of the blue crab fishery and the introduction of heightened regulations under the MMPA.

Article Details