Oceana tabs US bycatch at $1b
Oceana on Thursday released a report that finds U.S. fishermen could be throwing away approximately USD 1 billion (EUR 735 million) annually in bycatch, or the discarding of non-target fish and marine wildlife at sea.
“Bycatch is bad business. We’re not just throwing away fish, we’re throwing away money,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. “While improvements have been made in U.S. fishery management, the bottom line is that USD 1 billion in wasted catch is too much. The U.S. must continue to move forward on reducing the amount of bycatch in our nation’s fisheries.”
In Wasted Cash: The Price of Waste in the U.S. Fishing Industry, the most recently available bycatch data from the National Marine Fisheries Service was multiplied by the price per pound of discarded fish species, and then compiled for a nationwide estimate of the lost economic value. According to government estimates, U.S. fishermen discard approximately 20 percent of their catch every year, amounting to 2 billion pounds of fish.
“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.”
Of the key facts that Oceana said it discovered, USD 100 million (EUR 73.5 million) worth of fish are discarded in the shrimp trawl fishery in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico; USD 3 million (EUR 2.2 million) of depleted Atlantic cod are discarded; and USD 53 million (EUR 38.9 million) of Pacific halibut are discarded in Alaska fisheries annually, equivalent to 25 percent of the annual landed value in the region.
In the report, Oceana recommends a three-step approach — cap, count and control — for fisheries managers to increase efficiency and cut down on lost value due to bycatch. Everything caught in a fishery, including bycatch, should be counted; bycatch limits should be established; and incentives to minimize bycatch should be implemented to avoid economic and environmental losses.