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Report: ‘Bycatch’ Blamed for Nine Dirty Ocean Fisheries Off U.S. Shores

An international conservation organization working to protect the world’s oceans is out with a report naming the nine dirtiest U.S. fisheries.

The report says the equivalent of 1 billion seafood meals per year are being thrown back into the oceans. The list contained in the new report from the group Oceana addresses the “bycatch,” which is when ocean wildlife and non-targeted fish are brought up by fishing practices and then dumped back into the sea.

The report entitled, “Wasted Catch: Unsolved Bycatch Problems in U.S. Fisheries,” says that, while there has been progress in the past decade, the bycatch still results in about 20 percent of the catch being thrown away each year.

“Anything can be bycatch,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. “Whether it’s the thousands of sea turtles that are caught to bring you shrimp or the millions of pounds of cod and halibut that are thrown overboard after fishermen have reached their quota, bycatch is a waste of our ocean’s resources. Bycatch also represents a real economic loss when one fisherman trashes another fisherman’s catch.”

Fishing methods differ, although most involved in the issue believe that open-ocean long-line trawlers and gillnet fisheries do the most harm.

“Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, sharks, sea birds, sea turtles and fish needlessly die each year as a result of indiscriminate fishing gear,” said Amanda Keledjian, report author and a marine scientist at Oceana. “It’s no wonder that bycatch is such a significant problem, with trawls as wide as football fields, long lines extending up to 50 miles with thousands of baited hooks and gillnets up to two miles long. The good news is that there are solutions – bycatch is avoidable.”

Unfortunately, the bycatch problem in the U.S. is likely much worse than realized because most fisheries do not have adequate monitoring in place to document exactly what and how much is caught and subsequently discarded. In some fisheries, as few as one in 100 fishing trips carry impartial observers to document the catch, while many are not monitored at all, leading to large gaps in knowledge and poor-quality data.

Oceana claims that reducing the bycatch is a win-win for fishermen and conservationists because healthy oceans lead to renewed abundance while preventing the needless deaths of whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles.

The “Nine Dirty U.S Fisheries” (based on data published by the National Marine Fisheries Service) are:

  • Southeast Snapper-Grouper Long line Fishery (66 percent discarded) – More than 400,000 sharks were captured and discarded in one year.
  • California Set Gillnet Fishery (65 percent of all animals discarded) – More than 30,000 sharks and rays, as well as valuable fish, were discarded as waste over three years.
  • Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery (64 percent discarded) – For every pound of shrimp landed, one pound of billfish is discarded; thousands of sea turtles are killed annually.
  • California Drift Gillnet Fishery (63 percent of all animals discarded) – Almost 550 marine mammals were entangled or killed over five years.
  • Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Trawl Fishery (35 percent discarded) – More than 34 million pounds of fish were thrown overboard in one year, including 2 million pounds of halibut and 5 million pounds of cod.
  • Northeast Bottom Trawl (35 percent discarded) – More than 50 million pounds of fish are thrown overboard every year.
  • Mid-Atlantic Bottom Trawl Fishery (33 percent discarded) – Almost 200 marine mammals and 350 sea turtles were captured or killed in one year.
  • Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Long line Fishery (23 percent discarded) – More than 75 percent of the wasted fish in this fishery are valuable tuna, swordfish and other billfish targeted by the fishery.
  • New England and Mid-Atlantic Gillnet Fishery (16 percent discarded) – More than 2,000 dolphins, porpoises and seals were captured in one year.
© Food Safety News
  • Marge Mullen

    Is there a list of the cleanest?

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    The biggest problem with this report is it doesn’t give the average person anything to do to help the situation. Is there pending regulations somewhere we can support? Are there Congressional members we should contact about new laws?

    What seafood is safe to buy? What should we avoid?

    It’s a listing of problems and then…nothing.

    • MaryFinelli

      Even if bycatch could be ended, which it won’t be, fishing would still remain a horrific agony for the billions of fish who are intentionally caught. Science has shown fish to be sentient: able to suffer terror and pain. All for a food that presents such hazards to human consumers as concentrated mercury, dioxins, PCBs and other toxins, cholesterol, saturated fat, etc.

      There is a bounty of humane and far more healthful and environmentally responsible food choices. This includes the many marvelous vegan seafood options that are convenient, affordable and delicious. Recipes, products and more can be found on the Vegan Seafood Resources page of Fish Feel.

      • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

        This is completely irrelevant to the topic of this story.

        • MaryFinelli

          It’s completely relevant, which should be plainly obvious to someone who claims to be “interested in animal welfare.” Anyone who genuinely cares about animal welfare should be concerned with and opposed to the needless suffering which animals used for food are subjected to, including the astronomical number of fish who are used that way. The only real solution is to opt instead for plant-sourced foods. The great news is that it’s a wonderful option, as explained in my previous comment.

          • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

            While we’re waiting for the utopian world where people sit side by side with lions and tigers, and all only eat fruit that gently falls out of the tree on its own, we need to face the problems associated with our food supply _today_.

            I have a hint for you: the world is not going to become vegan overnight. I doubt it will become vegan in the next several decades–if ever.

            So we can either ignore all problems unless the solution is premised on “Go Vegan!”, or we can look to do better, one step at a time.

            Doing better in regards to seafood means a) eliminating bycatch, c) ensuring a healthy ocean environment, and c) preventing overfishing. This particular story is related to the issue of eliminating bycatch.

            While it is true “Going vegan” is a solution.. it’s not going to happen. It isn’t. Oh, maybe for a small percentage of people, but not the vast majority of humans. Not today. Not this moment.

            So, according to you, there is no solution other than Go Vegan. One then presumes your argument is let 65% of the by-catch die for no reason. Let sharks and sea turtles and other marine life just die for no reason, because if people aren’t willing to go vegan, we don’t care.

            Because, “Go vegan!” is all that matters.

          • terryward

            The only real solution to people dying from cancer is to opt instead for a cure for cancer.
            Well, that solves that, yes?
            When did this homicide of logic become a form of debate?

  • flame

    With all the hungry people in the USA and people who love seafood but find it to expensive what a waste. Aside from that what about all the tons of wild sea life being murdered. Human beings are awful to all living things with share the planet with. I’m truly heartbroken from reading this article and life is so devalued by humans.

  • vegan master 100 thousand

    If you were a true vegan like me, you would only eat phytoplankton. Thats it. The least contaminants possible and the highest food conversion ratio. Whales do it, its natural.

    Plants have feelings too, im sure having your roots ripped out of the ground wouldnt feel to good would it? kind of like ripping a tooth out of someones mouth but it kills them.

    Or ripping a nice juicy peach right off the tree would probably feel like having your testicles cut off with a dull butter knife?

    What about those millions and millions of acres of vineyards? once the vine isnt as productive any more they kill them all, dead plants for as far as the eye can see, its like the holocaust times 1 million…

    All so you can have your little vegan crunch bars or whatever other bullshit you vegan posers like to eat. Enjoy those pesticide residues in your concentrated plant snacks. they are there, believe that, if you dont then pony up couple hundred bucks and test your favorite vegan food for yourself if you really want to know what your eating.