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Sustainable Fishing in Protecting the Environment: How can it Work?
11.04.23
Rising demand in seafood and advancements in technology have led to a rise in fishing practices, which rapidly deplete fish and shellfish populations.

Unsustainable fishing practices and destructive fishing methods have a massive and long-lasting impact on the environment and humankind.

According to the Marine Conservation Institute, 90 percent of global fish populations are currently fished at their maximum limit or are overfished.

The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) breaks down percentages of world fish stocks as being 29 percent overfished, 61percent fully fished and only 10 percent underfished.

A prime example of the negative effects of overfishing is bluefin. Due to its popularity in food such as sushi and its high fetching prices, there is only 21- 29 percent of the population today compared to the 1970s.

In 1974, 90 percent of global fish populations were said to be ‘sustainable’. By 2017, this figure had dropped to 65.8 percent.
Sustainable Fishing in Protecting the Environment: How can it Work?
Today, one-third of economically valued fish populations are overexploited, and along the way we are driving non-target species to extinction. Unsustainable fishing kills thousands of tons of non-target species, called bycatch, that are caught unintentionally.

When we remove vast numbers of fish from the complex and intricate aquatic ecosystem, we trigger significant changes in the populations of those species who feed on them, or are food to them. Because of this, the oceans are collapsing, and it is why there is no such thing as a sustainable fishing industry.

Damaging fishing methods, like bottom trawling, destroy seafloor ecosystems that took centuries or millennia to rebound.

They also destroy sensitive habitats like coral and sponges. The damage takes decades to recover, even if it is protected and not damaged again.

There are also indirect impacts, like water pollution, carbon emissions, and even loss of biodiversity due to ‘ghost fishing’ where marine animals are entangled in abandoned fishing nets. When this happens, the environment is in complete danger.

What can be done to remedy this challenging situation and help our global fish stocks rebound? Fortunately, there are many things that can be done, and realizing that our oceans are in trouble today, many stakeholders in the fishing industry are already starting to change course and approach things more sustainably.

Fisheries authorities and leading fisheries research institutes around the world are adopting new regulations and developing new fishing gears and techniques for sustainable fishing to minimize environmental impacts.

How to Minimize Environmental Impact from Commercial Fishing


Here are some sustainable fishing practices that are becoming popular with the global fishery community.

Traps and pots


Fishing traps or pots are stationery cages or nets that float in the water. Fish or shellfish are steered or lured into them and once they are in, the design of the trap makes it difficult for them to get back out again.

Most traps are designed so that undersized fish can escape, reducing the risk of catching juvenile fish or smaller fish species.

Traps can be used near the surface or near the seafloor without causing damage if they are not dragged. As they are stationary, and designed to keep the fish alive, they are also less likely to injure bycatch, which can then be released safely.

Fish traps are extensively used in tropical and subtropical reef fisheries and are considered to be low cost, fuel-efficient and relatively low-impact fishing gear. They are suitable for most bottom species, can be deployed regardless of weather conditions, and do not require special assistance during fishing.

Purse Seining


Purse seining technique uses fish aggregating devices (FADs) that attract targeted species of fish and then catch them in nets. These nets can be enormous and can catch whole shoals of fish at once.

When used for fish species that shoal alone and do not mix with other fish, there is little bycatch. Using nets that are sized correctly for the target species can further reduce any bycatch, as well as the risk of netting juveniles.

According to scientific studies, when properly used, the FADs reduce the bycatch of non-targeted species to as low as 1 percent.

Fish purse seines are the main fishing gear used in catching pelagic fishes in the marine coastal and high-sea waters, as well as in inland areas when there is enough room for the operation of a large net.

Longlining


This technique uses a very long central fishing line that has many smaller lines of baited hooks attached to it. If these longlines are placed deep in the water, and if special circle hooks are used, they greatly reduce the incidents of bycatch.

Exclusionary Devices, Modified Gear, and Sustainable Fishing Practices


Finally, any fishing method can be made less harmful by using exclusionary devices, modified gear and fishing responsibly.

Just a few examples. Exclusionary devices can prevent non-target species, such as sea turtles, dolphins and sharks, from being caught in nets, while nets can be sized so that juveniles or smaller fish species can escape.

Nets and lines can be made from tangle-free and biodegradable materials to reduce ghost fishing.

Lines can be weighted to sink more quickly, quickly taking them out of range of seabirds and turtles.

Acoustic devices can be used to scare off some marine animals while fishing is in progress.

Flappers and flags can be used on lines to scare away birds and prevent them from getting hooked or caught up in lines.

Hooks can be designed to do less damage and make it easier to release bycatch safely.

Fishing can be done at specific times of the day to reduce incidents of bycatch.

Specific types of fishing can be banned from areas that will not quickly recover from the fishing method used.



Undoubtedly, every environmentally friendly fishing method and technique has its drawbacks. For example, in poorly-managed fisheries high effectiveness of traps combined with its low selectivity due to small mesh use may lead to a severe environmental impact, such as a drastic decline in overall fish abundance and habitat degradation.

Or sea turtles can be caught by a purse seine and become tangled in the net when it is hauled in.

However, a disastrous impact on the ocean and the entire environment from irresponsible, unsustainable fishing practices and destructive fishing methods is obvious and requires extensive discussion of related issues, including the management of wild fisheries and the accurate monitoring of fish stocks, national and international enforcement of fishing regulations that help maintain healthy fish populations, etc.

Seafood Expo Eurasia is an international seafood event poised to do its part by giving participants and attendees an opportunity to have such discussion and learn more about new methods and practices for sustainable industrial fishing.
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