Harmful Practices that Contribute to Overfishing
Many problems contribute to the global issue of overfishing. Fishing fleets that are 2-3 times larger than the ocean’s fish capacity, illegal “pirate” fishing, and high consumer demand all perpetuate the harmful cycle of catching more fish and ocean species than can be sustained or live to reproduce. In addition to these, there are several harmful fishing methods that are causing great damage to ocean populations and habitats. These include trawling and dredging, “longline” fishing, and bycatch.
Trawling and dredging occur when fishermen use great nets or dredging systems to churn up the seafloor and to capture large quantities of fish at one time. The problem with this method is that it destroys the seafloor habitat in the process. Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “SeafoodWatch” reports that “over one million pounds of deep water corals and sponges” are removed by bottom trawls each year in Alaska alone, and that trawling occurs up to 400 times a year off the North Sea in Denmark.
“Longline” fishing is a method by which the fishermen drag an extended fishing line behind their boat. This line can be as long as 50 miles and contains baited hooks along the line that catch whatever crosses its path, even unintended fish, birds, sharks, and turtles. Bycatch is a product of both longline and trawling and is the unintended catch that is brought in with the target fish. The excess fish or other species are then discarded, killed, and wasted. “Seafood Watch” also reports that for every pound of shrimp caught for commercial purposes, for example, up to six pounds of other species are caught and discarded.
Alternative methods that are safer for ocean species and the ocean environment are possible. Pots and traps have been shown to be effective for seafloor catching, with little invasion to the surrounding environment. Hook and line methods can replace longline fishing and can prevent bycatch as the fishermen are better able to release back into the ocean what they do not want. The average person can do their part by ensuring that their country regulates safe fishing methods. Writing to your local congressman or politician is an effective way to stir up interest on the topic. You can also insist that your local stores and restaurants buy their fish from companies that utilize sustainable methods when fishing. A global effort to safeguard against harmful practices that contribute to overfishing will bring about a global solution to the problem.
Koster, Pepijn. "Overfishing-A Global Disaster." 2011. overfishing.org. Web. 1 May 2012.Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. "Wild Seafood Issue: Overfishing." 2012. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Seafood Watch. Web. 1 May 2012.
Image from NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration