American fishery practices lead to huge amounts of waste. Wasted Catch: Unsolved Bycatch Problems in U.S. Fisheries, reports a huge waste of fish and other marine life, including endangered species.
Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation organization, prepared the report, which rates the most wasteful fisheries in the United States. The fisheries are ranked by the amount of bycatch – the quantity of unwanted animals – caught in commercial fishing. The nine dirtiest fisheries are responsible for half the reported bycatch nationwide, the report showed.
At the worst offender among the nine, a snapper and grouper fishery, where 66 percent of the catch is discarded. The discarded catch includes 400,000 sharks in a year. The other eight fisheries are distributed throughout the United States.
Dominique Cano-Stacco, Oceana campaign director, said in remarks to The Daily Beast that “we are allowing whales, dolphins, porpoises, and turtles to be killed.” She added that Oceana, while basically a conservation organization is also a pro-fishing organization.
Cano-Stacco criticizes the fishing industry’s use of gill nets, calling them “walls of death.” Gill nets can be up to two miles long. She also criticized “trawls,” long nets that are dragged along the bottom of the ocean.
These huge, and indiscriminate, nets sweep up everything, unintentionally killing things, damaging ecosystems, and wasting millions of pounds of food. ”It’s absurd,” Cano-Stacco said.
The commercial fishing industry, Cano-Stacco said, is outpacing efforts to preserve ocean habitats, and protect endangered species. To solve this problem is to save the ocean and provide a potential solution for human overpopulation, too. The key is to reduce bycatch, so other ocean conservation programs can work.
According to the fishery study, 17 to 22 percent of all the catch in the United States is thrown away, a huge waste fish, including endangered species. This waste represents almost two billion pounds of bycatch a year.
Some have questioned whether the Oceana report paints an accurate picture of the issue. Sea turtles remain abundant off South Carolina, in spite of extensive shrimping, according to Larry Toomer, a shrimper and restaurant owner on Hilton Head Island. “I haven’t caught a turtle in 10 years.”
Federal rules require shrimpers to use “turtle excluder devices” that let various species of sea turtle escape a shrimp net. Other larger species, sharks and rays for example, can escape as well.
However, shrimpers in South Carolina typically dump their catch on the deck. Shrimp get separated out and the fish, many dead or dying, are swept overboard.
Bycatch from the South Carolina the snapper-grouper fishery was listed as a problem area in the Oceana report.
Sally Murphy, a sea turtle expert and retired biologist pointed a problem with the Oceana conclusions. The study lumps together Gulf and South Atlantic shrimping territories. Gulf shrimpers have been less willing to use the required turtle excluder devices. That might elevate the bycatch count for both areas, even if the real issue is only in the Gulf.
Oceana reported that fisheries data is of poor quality because only one in 100 fishing trips carries an observer to document the catch. Many fishing trips are not monitored at all.
The Oceana fishery study reveals a huge waste of fish around the United States, and other impacts on ocean wildlife including endangered species.
By Chester Davis