Why is the US Throwing Away $1 Billion Worth of Fish Every Year?
You've probably already seen the grim news about overfishing: scientists predict that world food fisheries could collapse by 2050, if current trends continue. That's because 3/4 of the world's fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can reproduce; 80 percent are already fully exploited or in decline; and in addition 90 percent of all large predatory fish are already gone.
But the picture gets worse: every year, the U.S. fishing industry throws about 2 billion pounds worth of fish back into the water. A report released last month by Oceana estimates that this amounts to an annual loss of one billion dollars.
This is a huge problem on so many fronts: animal rights, the environment, the state of our oceans' ecology and, for an industry that represents 82 billion dollars in the U.S. economy, this is a big financial problem.
"The staggering amount of fish thrown away every year in the U.S. represents a real loss, both to fishermen and the future resilience of ocean ecosystems," said Amanda Keledjian, report author and marine scientist at Oceana. "Fisheries need to take the same steps other successful businesses do to cut waste and increase efficiency. In most cases, fishermen have the means and knowledge to make these changes, but lack the economic incentives to do so."
Unwanted Bycatch: Fish, Whales, Sea Turtles, Albatrosses
To take just one example from Oceana's report, it's estimated that in the South Atlantic and Gulf:
- $100 million worth of fish is discarded in the southeast shrimp trawl fishery
- $4 million worth of target fish is discarded in the Atlantic pelagic longline fishery, including tuna, sharks and swordfish
- $3 million worth of red grouper and $250,000 worth of red snapper are discarded in the snapper-grouper longline fishery
Fishermen throw out what they don't want for a number of reasons: they didn't mean to catch them in the first place; regulations prohibit them from keeping the fish; perhaps the fish won't fetch good prices.
Of course, the victims aren't just fish. Every year, an estimated 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die entangled in fishing nets, along with thousands of critically-endangered sea turtles. Long-line fisheries also kill huge numbers of seabirds. Over 100,000 Albatrosses die this way every year, and many species are endangered as a result of by catch.
And the fish, too, are usually dead or dying by the time the fish are dumped back into the ocean.
Coming Up With a Solution
Presumably most fishermen did not take up their career because they wanted to toss their catch back into the ocean, so what action can be taken?
Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Care2.
Fish image via Shutterstock.