The thing that struck me about this weeks readings is the disgusting amount of waste that happens in the fishing industry: “As much as half of all fish caught never make it to the table” acknowledges the Goldmark in the Most Sustainable Sushi Restaurant in America. And in the article The Oceanic Crisis: Capitalism and the Degradation of Marine Ecosystem the author, Brett Clark states: “[Industrialized capitalist fishing] leads to an immense amount of non-target marine life-bycatch- being captured. Bycatch are commercially unviable species, thus they are seen as waste. The “trash fish” are often ground up and thrown back into the ocean. Part of the bycatch includes juveniles of the target fish…it is estimated that an average of 27 million tons of fish are discarded each year in commercial fisheries around the world, and that the US has a .28 ratio of bycatch discard of landings.” This is outrageous! Over-consumption and greed is one thing- at least it is feeding people, but to intentionally waste that much marine life is atrocious!
I grew up fishing with my dad and there are strict regulations in place on the amount and size of fish you can keep-even for weekend anglers who use a hook and line to catch fish. These regulations are enforced with pretty good success by the state D.N.R. We always happily adhered to these limits because we knew it was for a good reason-to keep the fish population healthy. So I wondered why there are not similar regulations in place for commercial fisheries? Even if you accidentally caught fish you can always release them, right?
As it turns out, many bycatch fish die in the release process, so that is not necessarily the only answer. However, I did find out that there are actually federal regulations in place and ways to reduce the amounts of bycatch. According to the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, regulatory law limiting the amount of bycatch has significantly reduced the amount by approximately 460 million pounds, but the amount of groundfish thrown over board in today’s fisheries still represents excessive and unnecessary waste. http://www.akmarine.org/our-work/conserve-fisheries-marine-life/solutions-to-minimize-bycatch
I also found out that many fishing operations dump the bycatch rather than bring it to shore, because it is more cost effective to fill the space in the boat with saleable fish. Or, fish like halibut and salmon that have a higher market value. In the same article, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council states that: The new federal regulation requires Bering Sea and Aleutian Island bottom trawl catcher/processor vessels that are over 125 feet long to retain an increasing portion of their overall catch. It requires that vessels retain at least 65% of their catch in 2008 and 85% of their catch by 2011. While some vessels already retain 65% or more, others throw away over 50% of their catch at times. http://www.akmarine.org/our-work/conserve-fisheries-marine-life/solutions-to-minimize-bycatch
There are also different types of nets and practices that reduce the damage to fish and the marine floor, while reducing the amount of bycatch. This example from the Louisiana State University relates to the shrimping industry: Currently available to shrimpers are NMFS-approved bycatch reduction devices (BRDs), which have openings called fisheyes and funnels sewn into trawls. Fish entering the trawls swim out of the openings along with some shrimp. The size and economic impact of the loss will be a continuing concern to fishermen and regulators. The full document is attached for further reference.
This is good news and I am happy to see that there is some consciousness surrounding the issues, however, I’m sure more can be done. I am happy to be more aware of these issues and will be sure to check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s fish watch for more info on ocean-friendly seafood and sushi. They even have a fishwatch app that you can download onto your smart phone to help make smart purchases. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org