Oceana reports on 9 'dirtiest' fisheries in US

Nonprofit environmental group Oceana issued a new report this week highlighting nine of what it calls the "dirtiest fisheries in the United States," based on reports of bycatch.

The report, "Wasted Catch: Unsolved Bycatch Problems in U.S. Fisheries," estimates that approximately 20 percent of the total catch in the United States is thrown away each year, and the nine fisheries in question are responsible for more than 50 percent of the reported bycatch in the country every year.

"Anything can be bycatch," said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. "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."

The fisheries in Oceana's list, based on data from the National Marine Fisheries Service, are:

• Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline Fishery (66 percent discarded) — More than 400,000 sharks were captured and discarded in one year

• California Set Gillnet Fishery (65 percent of all animals discarded) — More than 30,000 sharks and rays as well as valuable fish were discarded as waste over three years

• Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery (64 percent discarded) — For every pound of shrimp landed, 1 pound of billfish is discarded; thousands of sea turtles are killed annually

• California Drift Gillnet Fishery (63 percent of all animals discarded) — Almost 550 marine mammals were entangled or killed over five years

• Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Trawl Fishery (35 percent discarded) — More than 34 million pounds of fish were thrown overboard in one year, including 2 million pounds of halibut and 5 million pounds of cod

• Northeast Bottom Trawl (35 percent discarded) — More than 50 million pounds of fish are thrown overboard every year

• Mid-Atlantic Bottom Trawl Fishery (33 percent discarded) — Almost 200 marine mammals and 350 sea turtles were captured or killed in one year

• Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Longline Fishery (23 percent discarded) — More than 75 percent of the wasted fish in this fishery are valuable tuna, swordfish and other billfish targeted by the fishery

• New England and Mid-Atlantic Gillnet Fishery (16 percent discarded) — More than 2,000 dolphins, porpoises and seals were captured in one year

"Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, sharks, sea birds, sea turtles and fish needlessly die each year as a result of indiscriminate fishing gear," said Amanda Keledjian, report author and marine scientist at Oceana. "It's no wonder that bycatch is such a significant problem, with trawls as wide as football fields, longlines extending up to 50 miles with thousands of baited hooks and gillnets up to two miles long. The good news is that there are solutions — bycatch is avoidable."

Oceana, in its statement, said that bycatch is higher in open ocean trawling, longline and gillnet industries.

"The solution can be as simple as banning the use of drift gillnets, transitioning to proven cleaner fishing gears, requiring Turtle Excluder Devices in trawls, or avoiding bycatch hotspots," said Dr. Geoff Shester, California program director at Oceana. "Proven solutions and innovative management strategies can significantly reduce the unnecessary deaths of sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and other marine life, while maintaining vibrant fisheries."


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