We have been talking a lot about plastics, but they are not the only threat to the marine ecosystem. It is thought that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Humans are solely to blame. If it is not us putting the plastics in to the environment, it is the rate at which we remove fish from the ecosystem that have a detrimental impact.
There is a lot of information that supports a diet full of omega-3s and vitamin D, both of which are in abundance in fish. As a result, many people choose to include it as a regular part of their diet. Some people even opt for it to be their primary source of protein.
What impact does this have on our oceans? Not only is there a problem with the number of fish we remove, but there are detrimental impacts of some fishing methods; bycatch, ghost nets, other marine debris, and that is not even including the terrible practices that catastrophically impact shark populations.
What methods are there or what are the potential issues?
Pole and line-pretty self-explanatory, it is what I think of when I think about fishing. Single catch, can throw back anything that I do not want, but risk catching and injuring the ‘wrong fish’
Trolling- uses multiple lines often towed behind a boat, high risk of bycatch.
Trawling-pulling large nets or traps behind a boat, large amount of bycatch, risk of breaking or losing the net and creating marine debris to trap and suffocate marine mammals
Gill nets-attached to surface buoys, catch fish gills as they swim through and can result in a large amount of bycatch. If they get too heavy, they sink and can trap marine mammals and damage the ocean floor, as bottom dwellers eat the catch, they become lighter and float again, the process repeats.
Drift nets- similar process to gill nets but use overlapping mesh to catch the tails of fish as they swim through.
Due to the growth of the commercial fishing industry in the 1950s, we have switched away from organic materials in nets to synthetic materials. This means that gill nets and drift nets that get lost to the sea will continue they’re destructive pattern indefinitely. We refer to this as ghost gear. What is worse, some fishermen leave old nets as it is an easier way to deal with them.
The problem is not just nets but left fishing gear in general. This can be old style traps that do not have the rot-out mechanisms now required. As crabs go in, they cannot escape and will become the bait, making these self-baiting traps catch crabs for years. Discarded, lost fishing line can become deadly for many creatures including birds, marine mammals, and even divers!
Monofilament line is invisible on the surface, try seeing it underwater.
It is not only our intentional purchase and consumption of fish products, but the unfortunate impact that can have an impact of the fish stocks, and marine food web.
Such a dire picture, but what can YOU the consumer do to help?
The Marine Steward Council has published guidelines on what sustainable fishing looks like. We need to make sure that we are eating fish species at a rate that allows them to be replenished. They should be caught using methods that do not leave marine debris behind or risk damaging bycatch. First, choose fish that are sustainable themselves, the Marine Conservation society has published a list to help rating the sustainability of each fish. When buying fish, look for tuna with the dolphin safe seal, the MSC certified sustainable seafood label, or the RSPCA monitored freedom food label. Choose a variety of fish and reduce the popular fish as this leads to overfishing.
All of the environmental concerns facing our planet come down to human choice. Make better and more sustainable choices. Take your reusable containers to a sustainable fishmonger for a double win.
1 Old Station Yard, Whissendine Road
Ashwell, Oakham, LE15 7SP
Tel: 0845 5195464
or 01572 868450
or 07546 227199 out of hours
Dive Rutland is the trading name for Dive Rutland Limited, a company registered in England and Wales with company number 9433835.
Registered address: 8 Horn Close, Oakham, Rutland LE15 6FE