Modify gillnet or entangling (trammel/tangle) net configuration

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Four studies examined the effects of modifying gillnet or entangling (trammel or tangle) net configuration on marine fish populations. One study was in each of the Gulf of Maine (USA), the Atlantic Ocean (USA) and the Adriatic Sea (Italy), and one study was in two estuaries in North Carolina (USA). 





About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, controlled study in 2003 of an area of seabed in the Gulf of Maine, off New Hampshire, USA (He 2006) found that modifying the configuration of a bottom gillnet (reducing the net height/number of meshes) reduced the unwanted catches of cod Gadus morhua in one of two net designs, compared to two nets of standard height. Cod catch rates were lower in one of two reduced height gillnets (eight meshes deep) compared to the other reduced height net (12 meshes deep) and two types of standard net of 25 meshes height (eight mesh: 8; 12 mesh: 14; standard cod net: 32, tie-down flounder net: 11 fish/five-net fleet). In addition, the eight mesh net had higher catches of the targeted flounder Pleuronectidae species than one of the standard 25 mesh nets (cod net), but lower than the other (flounder net) (eight mesh: 5, standard cod net: 4, tie-down flounder net: 11 fish/five-net fleet). During July and August 2003, forty comparative fishing sets of four types of gillnet (see paper for specifications) were fished on the seabed at depths between 34–76 m, at random locations in the same general area within half a mile apart. The gillnets were left overnight for 18–28 hr.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, paired, controlled study in 2000 of two coastal fished areas in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina, USA (Thorpe & Frierson 2009) found that modifying the configuration of a gillnet by increasing the tension did not typically reduce the catch rates of four unwanted shark species in a commercial gillnet fishery, compared to unmodified nets. Shark catch rates were reduced in gillnets with increased tension only in nets of the larger mesh size (10.2 cm) and only for two of four species: Atlantic sharpnose Rhizoprionodon terraenovae, (modified: 0.35, unmodified: 0.58 kg/gillnet/hr) and blacknose Carcharhinus acronotus (modified: 0.04, unmodified: 0.13 kg/gillnet/hr); but not blacktip Carcharhinus limbatus (0.09 vs 0.13 kg/gillnet/hr) or bonnethead sharks Sphyrna tiburo (0.23 vs 0.31 kg/gillnet/hr). Catch rates of all four species were not significantly different between nets of 7.6 cm mesh size (modified: 0.05–2.11; unmodified: 0.08–2.46 kg/gillnet/hr). In addition, there was no difference in catch rates of the target fishery species Spanish mackerel Scomberomorus maculatus between modified and unmodified gillnets of the same mesh size (see paper for data). Data was collected from deployments of four gillnets of two mesh sizes (7.6 and 10 cm) by a commercial fishing vessel in May-September 2000. For each mesh size, one gillnet had increased tension (using larger floats on the top-rope and heavier weights on the bottom rope) and was set end to end (15 m apart) with the other, unmodified, net. Between 24–34 sets were made with each mesh size.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated study in 2010 of an area of sandy-mud seabed in the Adriatic Sea, Italy (Grati et al. 2015) found that modifying the configuration of a gillnet by increasing the twine diameter reduced the discards of non-commercial, but not commercial, species (fish and invertebrates). The percentage of discarded non-commercial species (fish and invertebrates) in catches decreased with increases in twine diameter (0.30 mm: 27%, 0.25 mm: 30%, 0.22 mm: 33%, 0.20 mm: 41%, 0.18: 39%), but there was no differences between diameters for discarded commercial species (5–7%). The average number of species caught was also lower for the thickest twine diameter compared to the three thinnest (0.30 mm: 7, 0.25 mm: 8, 0.18–0.22 mm: 9). In addition, catch rates of the target fish species, common sole Solea solea, were similar between twine diameters (data reported as statistical results). During July–October 2010, a total of 20 gillnet sets (deployments) were fished for 10–12 h. For each set, 50 single-twine gillnets (10 of each twine diameter: 0.18, 0.20, 0.22, 0.25 and 0.30 mm) were randomly arranged in one group, 1.5 m apart. All species caught were identified and separated into commercially valuable catch and unwanted catch.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A replicated, paired, controlled study in 2010–2013 of two estuaries in North Carolina, USA (Rudershausen et al. 2015) found that rectangular mesh gillnets of different mesh sizes and depths reduced catches of unwanted fish including red drum Sciaenops ocellatus and undersized individuals of the commercial target species southern flounder Paralichthys lethostigma compared to conventional diamond mesh nets. Numbers of unwanted fish were lower in rectangular mesh nets than diamond mesh, irrespective of the depth profile (number of meshes) of the net (rectangle: 0.4–0.5 fish/90 m, square: 4.1–4.8 fish/90 m) and mesh size (rectangle: 0.4 fish/30 m, square: 1.2–1.4 fish/30 m). Red drum and undersized southern flounder catches were lower in rectangular than diamond meshes for both net depth profiles (red drum: 0.0 vs 0.2–0.3 fish/90 m; flounder: 0.0–0.1 vs 0.5 fish/90 m). Catches of both species were lower in rectangular nets compared to diamond mesh nets for two of three mesh size comparisons (14.0 and 15.2 cm mesh sizes for red drum and 14.6 and 15.2 cm for undersized flounder – see paper for data). Legal-sized catches of target flounder were similar in rectangular and diamond mesh nets for both low profile (0.9 vs 1.1) and high profile nets (0.4 vs 0.7/90 m), but lower in all three rectangular mesh sizes than corresponding diamond nets (14 cm: 0.2 vs 0.4, 14.6 cm: 0.3 vs 0.5, 15.2 cm: 0.1 vs 0.4/30 m). Experimental gillnet deployments were made in the Neuse River estuary in April–June 2010 and in the Newport River Estuary in April–October in 2011–2013. In 2010, paired deployments (85) of one of two rectangular mesh nets, 20 meshes (‘low profile’) and 33 meshes (‘high profile’) deep, and one diamond mesh gillnet (20 meshes deep), all 14 cm mesh size were made, set parallel to the shore for 12 h. In 2011–2013, a total of 150 paired deployments were made of three rectangular mesh nets and three diamond mesh nets of different mesh sizes (14.0 cm, 14.6 cm or 15.2 cm), set for 12 h parallel to shore.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Taylor, N., Clarke, L.J., Alliji, K., Barrett, C., McIntyre, R., Smith, R.K., and Sutherland, W.J. (2021) Marine Fish Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Selected Interventions. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Marine Fish Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Marine Fish Conservation
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust