Conservation group Oceana recently issued a report that named nine fisheries responsible for more than half of the U.S. bycatch. Bycatch is the wasted edible fish and drowned animals thrown back into the sea by fishing crews. Oceana claimed that 17-22 percent of the U.S.’s fishing fleets’ catch may be thrown away, totaling up to 2 billion tons per year.
“Anything can be bycatch,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana in a press release. “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.”
Oceana used National Marine Fisheries Service records to create their report and list of the nine fisheries, which provide only 7 percent of the total fish haul for the U.S. market, yet account for more than half of the total wasted bycatch. Fishing vessels in some of these regions actually throw away more than they take in.
These are the Nine fisheries:
Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline Fishery: 66 Percent Discarded – In one year, more than 400,000 sharks were snagged on the baited hooks attached to the longlines, which can stretch 50 miles.
California Set Gillnet Fishery: 65 Percent Discarded – More than 30,000 sharks and rays along with mackerel and other edible fish were wasted over three years.
Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery: 64 Percent Discarded – Thousands of sea turtle drown in shrimp nets each year. Mechanisms known as “Turtle Excluder Devices” could have allowed many of these reptiles to escape. However, the use of these devices is not required. Also in this fishery, every pound of shrimp landed results in 1 pound of billfish discarded
California Drift Gillnet Fishery: 63 Percent Discarded – Over five years, almost 550 marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions, were entangled in nets or killed.
Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Trawl Fishery: 35 Percent Discarded – More than 34 million pounds of fish were thrown overboard in one year, mostly arrowtooth flounder, as well as 2 million pounds of halibut and 5 million pounds of cod.
Northeast Bottom Trawl: 35 Percent Discarded – More than 50 million pounds of fish, such as flounder and skates, are thrown overboard per year.
Mid-Atlantic Bottom Trawl Fishery: 33 Percent Discarded – In one year, almost 200 marine mammals and 350 sea turtles were trapped or killed
Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Longline Fishery: 23 Percent Discarded – More than 75 percent of the wasted fish are valuable tuna, swordfish and other billfish, but too small for commercial sale.
New England and Mid-Atlantic Gillnet Fishery: 16 Percent Discarded – More than 750 dolphins and porpoises died in gill nets each years in the 2000s.
Photo: Dolphin trapped in gillnet Credit: Oceana