By-catch of franciscana <i>Pontoporia blainvillei</i> in Uruguayan artisanal gillnet fisheries: an evaluation after a twelve-year gap in data collection
AbstractThe franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) is the most threatened small cetacean in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Its incidental capture in the Uruguayan fisheries of the Atlantic oceanic coast (AOC) has been recorded since 1940 and was systematically studied from 1974 to 1994, providing the most recent by-catch per unit of effort estimate (BPUE) for the AOC region (0.0064 franciscanas per 1000m net per fishing set). The lack of new by-catch data during the past 12 years has led to a data gap in by-catch estimates for the species in Uruguay. The current study was developed in two separate stages, a first stage (July 2004 - December 2005) designed to identify fisheries that interact with franciscana, and a second stage (2006), designed to determine new BPUE and franciscana mortality estimates for the selected fisheries. During the first stage, 13 artisanal fisheries of the Uruguayan coast were visited monthly, while in the second stage five fisheries (including the Rio de la Plata estuary and the AOC) were selected for monitoring. During 2006, 26 fishermen recorded all the information related to each fishing event, allowing the estimation of fishing effort calculated in linear units multiplied by hour (FEL). We also estimated a fishing set (FES) based by-catch rate which allowed the comparison with previously reported results. For 2006, the BPUEL (based on FEL) was estimated at 0.0020 franciscanas per 1000m net per hour and the BPUES at 0.0286 franciscanas per 1000m net per fishing set. The BPUEL was extrapolated to the surveyed fishing fleets during 2006, resulting in a mortality estimate of 289 (95% CI: 266-350) franciscanas. Based on the fishing dynamics reported herein, we consider the BPUEL the most accurate estimate of by-catch for the Uruguayan coast. This research updates the values of BPUE in the AOC after a 12-year information gap and includes the first by-catch evaluation in the Uruguayan estuarine coast. We highly recommend an abundance estimation of the species to complement the information reported herein in order to know the current status of franciscana dolphin population in Uruguay.
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