Bycatch - another Overfishing Problem

Bycatch is the fish and other wildlife caught during commercial fishing practices that are not the target species.  When fish are caught that are not the targeted species, are too small, or do not live up to the quality standards we are use to, they are thrown back into the ocean, more often than not, already dead.

"One-quarter (25%) of all the fish pulled from the sea never make it to market." - Green Peace

Green peace estimates that 11 MILLION TONS of fish are discarded annually because they are accidentally caught during shrimp harvesting.  It is not uncommon for a shrimp harvest to be 90% fish and only 10% shrimp.

Bycatch laws are beginning to be put in place, but stricter regulations are still needed.

Living creatures are being wasted and killed unnecessarily on a daily basis.  Next time you take a bite of your favorite dish, think about how many other finned fish had to die for that serving of shrimp.

No Fish in 40 years!?

That's right!  In the last 50 years the total catch of fish from the ocean has spiked nearly 400% to 73.5 million metric tons in one year!!  Since then 90% of the oceans population of large fish has been completely fished out!  That's almost 90 different species that have been depleted off of U.S. shores alone.

Click here to see how we killed the fish (pics)

Teaching Children About Overfishing

There's no doubt that adults should learn about overfishing and should try to help out in the cause if possible, but there's no harm in trying to teach children about it. If children are taught the meaning of overfishing, its affects and causes, they, too, can help the world in this crisis, and will have the knowledge for any future issues.

But how can someone go about teaching children such a challenging topic? There are many different ways, but here are a few I found...

 For one, there's Fish & Kids, a child-friendly website (for kids, parents and teachers) detailing the issue of overfishing, along with games and trivia, and guided by Murdock, the "ginger cat with attitude".
Here's another interesting way I found: make it a game. You can find information on this "overfishing game for kids" at

Overfishing Games For Kids 1 - Gone Fishing

You just need a few supplies, some goodies to give away, and a little bit of time. For an extra treat let the birthday boy or girl stand behind the curtain and dish out the gifts in this fun fishing game for kids. The parents will even want to jump in and play! Have fun playing these overfishing games for kids!

Materials Needed:

  • A sheet
  • String
  • Old Fishing Pole (or you can make one with string and a stick or broom handle)
  • Clothespin
  • Various toys and goodies


  • Tie a string across the room and lay a sheet over it so no one can see what is on the other side.
  • Use an old fishing pole, or tie a string around a stick or broom handle. Tie a clothespin on the end of the fishing pole's string.
  • Let each child take a turn "casting" their line over the sheet.
  • Have your helper stand on the other side and attach small gifts, favors, or treats to the clothespin. When they're done, the helper gives a slight tug on the line.
  • When the kids "reel" in their lines, they'll be delighted to see what they've caught!
  • You can also use this game in conjunction with other party games. The winner of each game gets a chance to "go fishing" for their prize. The more games they win, the more chances they have to get a prize.
  • Another variation of overfishing games for kids is to have the helper hold a bag full of paper fishes in various sizes and lengths. They can randomly pick a fish from the bag and attach it to each child's fishing line. At the end of the game, you see who has the longest fish!
  • A third variation could be a guessing game- each child receives a clue to a mystery item at the end of their fishing pole. The group must then get together and figure out what the mystery item is.
  • So if your looking for overfishing games for kids, then this ones for you.

Note: To explain the overfishing concept - let the children catch the same favor over and over again until there are no more. Explain the real threat that overfishing can cause in the food chain and the impact that it can have on the environment.


How Aquaculture Contributes to Overfishing

Fish farms are suppose to reduce overfishing by supplementing the worlds seafood diet, but some farmed fish species are carnivores that require wild fish to support their diets. Salmon is one of the most popular farmed fish carnivores on the market. They must consume three pounds of wild fish in order to put on one pound of weight.  Tuna is another carnivore that requires fifteen pounds of fish for its diet before it will gain a pound. Some farmed fish do not depend solely on wild fish such as Catfish and Tilapia. Another good option for farmed seafood is shellfish, because they are filter feeders that do not contribute to overfishing.


"The Use of Wild Fish in Aquaculture Ocean Issues from the Seafood Watch Program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium." The Use of Wild Fish in Aquaculture Ocean Issues from the Seafood Watch Program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2012. <>.

Regulations for Recreational Fishing Vessels.

While on a recreational fishing trip last year I reeled in a very unusual catch.  The captain knew exactly what it was when pulled aboard.  He also knew the regulations in his ocean that allowed me to keep the rare catch.  This made me think about fishing regulations on a larger scale because I had never investigated the rules myself and have always counted on others knowledge of the regulations.  In the Pacific Ocean there are slightly different regulations and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) then in the Atlantic.  These regulations cover items such as HMS Permits, logbook requirements, observer programs, prohibited species, catch limits for non-HMS, prohibited catches and fishing techniques.  There is a lot to know for recreational fishing vessels and just because you may be fishing for say salmon does not mean you won’t hook something else you may want to keep. 

HMS Recreational Gear Regulations
Rod and Reel (pole and line): a hand-held (including rod holder) fishing rod with a manually or electrically operated reel attached.  Spear: a sharp, pointed, or barbed instrument on a shaft. Spears can be operated manually or shot from a gun or sling.  Hook and Line: one or more hooks attached to one or more lines (excludes mousetrap gear).  The area managed under these regulations applies to all U.S. vessels that fish for HMS on the high seas and land their fish in California, Oregon or Washington between 3-200 nautical miles off the coast. 

What are the HMS Logbook Reporting Requirements?
Since catch, effort, and catch disposition data is critical for monitoring HMS fisheries and assessing the status of the stocks, evaluating the effectiveness of management logbooks hold a important key to fishing the oceans.  All commercial fishing and recreational charter vessels are required to maintain logbooks.  All information specified on the logbook forms must be recorded on the forms within 24 hours after the completion of each fishing day.  The original logbook form for each day of the fishing trip must be submitted to NMFS or the appropriate state management agency within 30 days of each landing or transshipment of HMS. Each form must be signed and dated by the fishing vessel.

Since regulations are a key tactic to keep our oceans from being overfished these guides go into the needed detail on all regulations for the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic.


Pirates: Not just for story books

Pirates have been all the rage lately.  From big hollywood box office hits,  popular Halloween costumes, to headline producing Somalian hijackings, pirates have been a topic in most households.  Did you know that within the overfishing dilemma  there are pirates as well?
It's true, illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing is a huge criminal problem that is contributing to overfishing.  This pirate fishing is another outlet of organized crime in which these pirate criminals have no respect for laws and boundaries within the oceans.  

     "Worth between US$10 -23.5 billion per year, it also presents a major loss of income to coastal        countries and coummunities. This is especially the case for some of the world's poorest countries, which depend on fishing for food, livelihoods and revenues. 
The poachers are also killing tens of thousands of marine animals as bycatch and destroying delicate habitats through their unregulated use of damaging, and sometimes illegal, fishing practices." (WWF)

Pirates aren't always, "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum".  This is a real problem.

Climate change or Overfishing?

Everyday there seems to be something new that our society needs to be concerned about. Whether that be to lessen greenhouse gases emissions, carpool more often, take a bike rather than a car, and also stopping the dilemma of overfishing. Fish species respond to our overfishing, and are greatly impacted by the ever changing climate effecting the ecosystem's sustainability. Overfishing has been shown to effect coral reefs and kelp forest. According to a study from the ecosystem of the Canadian east coast reveals that the elimination of larger predatory fish can cause effect on the pelagic food web (Scheffer, Carpenter, & Young, 2005). When the larger predatory fish populations decrease, the smaller fish will increase from having competition for survival. Fish stocks need to be managed so understand the effects both the climate and fishing have on populations. According to Scheffer, Carpenter & Young (2005) many scientists believe that overfishing is a dominant force that is driving the collapse of fish stock. At the same time many believe that it is the increasing climate change that are affecting the population of fish. With both the overfishing and climate change factors many reefs have lost their ability to absorb recurrent natural disturbances (p.1621). According to a study fish population decreases when human population increases (p.1626).
The study focused mainly on parrotfish, and how the population was effected from the populations of humans. From their study they found that a decline in fish population was dependent on the species of fish. Some were able to handle the pressures of fishing, while others were struggling to keep up. The findings explain that human population density are the dominant factor in the loss of large fish and the erosion of ecosystem function.
Action against overfishing needs to be taken to help begin to reverse the damage that has been done to the marine ecosystem. This is one issue that we need to be concerned about, from the impact we have on the marine life.

Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S. & Young, B. (2005). Cascading effects of overfishing marine systems. Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences. Vol. 20, Issue 11.

Bellwood, D., Hoey, A., & Hughes, T. (2011). Human activity selectively impacts the ecosystem roles of parrotfishes on coral reefs. The Royal Society.

Overfishing Kills Sea Lions Too

Twenty, the number of sea lions shot to death along the Oregon coast this year.  The sea lions are being killed for eating salmon. 
Dalin D'Alessandro a Portland State University research assistant with the Northern Oregon-Southern Washington Marine Mammal Stranding Network believes the killing is due to fishermen frustrated over competition for their catch. While it's typical to see a slight increase in dead sea lions around the opening of salmon season, recent numbers are about four times the norm for the same time period.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, sea lions are protected from harassment by humans. However, an exception is made for specific circumstances in which sea lions are deemed to be a significant threat to salmon.  In this case, California sea lions have been observed eating endangered Columbia River chinook salmon at Bonneville Dam, on the border between Washington and Oregon.

The sea lions represent a massive headache each year as chinook salmon begin arriving at the Bonneville Dam east of Portland, congregating in large numbers as they return from the ocean. Sea lions have become keenly aware that the dam is a great spot to feast on salmon, easy pickings as they wait to go up the dam's fish ladders.

The Humane Society of the United States, say that a far greater danger to salmon are hydroelectric dams on the Columbia, which are an obstacle to salmon both as they head out to sea and when they return from the ocean to spawn.  The Humane Society also says fishermen catch three times as many salmon as sea lions eat.

How can you help?  Contact the Governors of Washington and Oregon and tell them to stop killing sea lions at Bonneville Dam.

"The Columbian | Serving Clark County, Washington." 20 Sea Lions Found Dead in Two Months. The Columbian, 05 June 2012. Web. 09 June 2012. <>.

Muskus, Jeff. "Sea Lions Killed For Eating Salmon." The Huffington Post., 08 Mar. 2010. Web. 09 June 2012. <>.

Tobias, Lori. "Two More Sea Lions Shot to Death along Oregon Coast, Bringing Number to about 20." The Oregonian., 04 June 2012. Web. 09 June 2012. <>.

Co-management: a solution for overfishing?

A study by the wildlife conservation society has determined an effective way of combating and regulating overfishing. The process is called co-management in which a collaborative arrangement is made between local communities, conservation groups, and governments. The agreement is based upon policies, regulation, and communication between groups over the areas that are fished in. Basically co-management is a team of different experts in their field that are working together for a common goal that will benefit the future.

The results of the study show success in 42 co-managed reefs in five countries. The partnership is a bold step to rectify damage that has been done, and in theory the solution seems to fit but only to an extent. Don’t global fisheries have a commission made up of experts that determine acceptable yearly fishing catch stocks? Don’t government’s subsidies groups regulate fisheries?

The solution works depending on the mission and vision of fisheries and the expectations placed upon them by the economy. The tornado known as overfishing is a spiral of issues involving conservation groups, businesses, technology, and the economies demands. The system is already being co-managed but the problem is that it is being co-managed at a global scale.

Sea Bird Plunders

Overfishing is such a destructive force upon the ecosystem of the oceans that the seabird populations are dropping to dangerous levels. The main problem is called a trophic cascade where the population of one species in a food chain affects the relationship of the entire ecosystem.  The result of an international study spanning 450 years of observations published by science magazine says that the fish populations directly affect the seabird populations. The study investigates the relationship between predators and preys in seven ecosystems. Researchers where noticing trophic cascades where overfishing had effected the ecosystem.

What is occurring is that the prey of seabirds such as herring, sardines, and anchovies are being overfished to unsustainable levels to repopulate. The levels are so low that seabird population can’t find enough fish for themselves. So naturally the lack in food for seabirds leads to the bird population dropping. Furthermore these overfished stocks are being used as bait and nutrients at fish farms. How can we consider the operation of depleting a primary prey species for seabirds to insure sustainable fish farms as a sustainable practice? I thought the whole premise of a fish farm was to counteract overfishing practices but instead we seem to be integrating overfishing into fish farming. Somehow it all seems like one sick joke and the seabirds are the punch line.

European commission green lights increase to fishing quota

 One of the problems with overfishing is that it is a complex cycle of different factors working together to benefit human kind but indirectly depleting fish stocks. As the population grows the demand for fish grows. As the demand for fish grows faster, then the technology becomes more efficient and more bountiful. As technology becomes more efficient then the cost of operations start to rise for the business. Now the business needs the fishermen to catch more fish so they can pay for operations and provide a product. Now here lies a new question, how do we keep the price of fish affordable?

Economics teaches us that high demand is a product of low supply and vice versa. Economics also teaches us that the higher the supply the lower the price can be. So with fish stocks depleting due to overfishing, which is the result of high demand that needs to stay at an affordable cost, it is quite shocking to see that the European commission is increasing the fishing quota for fisheries 11% higher than what is recommended by scientists. The EU has rationalized their decision by saying that fish stocks are starting to rise again but scientists argue that any increase in fishing activities would destroy the healing that is starting to take place in the oceans.  After years of restricting catch numbers and regulating fisheries to help the oceans repopulate, the moment successful results come in the commission decides to go back to their old practices. How can we make a difference if we are not willing to learn from our past mistakes? Why are we going to allow history to repeat itself when we know what the result will be? Overfishing seems to be confused as a rash rather than a cancer. It seems like the only way to make a proper change to better the earth’s resources and humanity is to look at the complex cycle of different factors and make changes that will better nature’s future which indirectly is humanities future.

Flags of Convenience on the Senegalese Sea

With the earth consisting of 75% water, it is a difficult for activists such as Greenpeace to continually sheriff the safety of the oceans from illegal fishing conducted by global corporate fishing entities. Yet again though, Greenpeace has confronted another illegal fishing vessel, this time of the coast of Africa in the Senegalese Sea. Though global fishing practices are continually being regulated and fishing practice policies are demanded to be followed by governments. Somehow fishing corporations are always on the cutting edge of loopholes in regards to fishing regulations.

Greenpeace confronted the 120 meter long Russian, Lithuanian fishing vessel the “Irvinga” which was fishing under a “flag of convenience” which African authorities recognize. These “flags of convenience” are just one of the loopholes fishing vessels use to illegally fish in waters that they should not be in. A “flag of convenience” is a visible emblem on a commercial vessel that authorities recognize as an approved vessel to be allowed in specific waters. So let’s say I own an American fishing vessel and my fleet is allowed to fish in Pacific regions. I could use a Russian flag that would allow me to fish in Atlantic regions then switch to the American flag once the fleet is in Pacific regions and perhaps double up on fish to make a better profit.

The activists Greenpeace are always catching illegal vessels using these “flags of convenience” and demanding them to halt fishing and leave the waters. The problem is that many fishing vessels from numerous fishing industries are using “flags of convenience” and Greenpeace just doesn’t have enough recourses or man power to be sheriff-ing 75% of the globe. Though policies and regulations are in place to combat such loopholes there is little to no enforcement of these regulations such as seen in the Senegalese Sea. Perhaps the problem lies in the amount of awareness the general public has for the issue of “flags of convenience” and if a powerful marketing campaign can be established maybe then regulations will start to be followed.