Overfishing has become a major problem for the ocean’s ecological health. But perhaps an even bigger issue at hand may be the tremendous volume of commercial bycatch – the deadly capture of non-target species and ocean wildlife caught during the fishing process.
Non-targeted dolphins, whales, and various other fish species are sometimes brought to port after being inadvertently trapped in nets, or more often, are simply thrown overboard at sea, dead or nearly dying.
“Anything can be bycatch,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. “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.”
Per a new report from Oceana, several estimates put global bycatch as some 40% of all the world’s seafood haul. That comes out to more than 63 billion pounds of wasted fish and ocean wildlife, including some endangered dolphin and fish species.
Policing this problem may sound to be impossible – given the high number of perpetrators scattered across the globe’s oceans. However, Oceana reports that just nine major fisheries are to blame for roughly half the problem.
According to the Oceana report, the nine major culprits are:
1. Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline Fishery
2. California Set Gillnet Fishery
3. Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery
4. California Drift Gillnet Fishery: Close to 550 marine animals were entangled or killed over five years.
5. Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Trawl Fishery
6. Northeast Bottom Trawl: Over 50 million pounds of fish are thrown overboard each year.
7. Mid-Atlantic Bottom Trawl Fishery
8. Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Longline Fishery
9. New England and Mid-Atlantic Gillnet Fishery: Over 2,000 dolphins, porpoises and seals were captured in one year.