Let’s watch a new Netflix documentary and learn about the impact of commercial fishing.
Fishing nets pollute the world’s oceans and harm marine life more than plastic tubes. Dolphins do not suffer the most from dolphinariums, but from being caught in nets while fishing. Fish farms are no better, because they create a lot of waste and almost half of all farmed fish is discarded. These are just a few facts from the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy. The authors of the Cowspiracy tape on how the meat industry pollutes the planet, this time showed that the fishing industry is no less harmful.
We watched the film and recorded some facts from it. We also found an interview with a representative of the World Wide Fund for Nature WWF-Ukraine about how industrial fishing affects the environment.
40% of the catch is simply discarded
Almost half of all sea creatures caught in nets during commercial fishing are thrown overboard as by-catches. This term describes all living things that are in the nets by accident. About 50 million sharks fall into the nets every year, the film says. And although by-catches are released back into the ocean, fish often die before they fall back into the water.
And even labels on products like Dolphin Safe do not guarantee that dolphins do not fall into the nets when fishing. This conclusion of the film received a lot of criticism. For example, David Phillips, head of the International Marine Mammal Project, said the dolphin protection program does work. “The Dolphin Safe tuna program is responsible for the greatest reduction in dolphin mortality through tuna vessels. Dolphin killings have dropped by at least 95%, and about 100,000 dolphin deaths are prevented each year, ”says Phillips.
Fishing nets are the main plastic threat in the ocean
Six of the seven species of sea turtles are threatened with extinction or extinction. And this is not because of global warming or plastic tubes in the ocean, but because of the fishing industry. 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Dump is made up of fishing nets. Instead, plastic tubes are only 0.03% of ocean debris. Director and protagonist of Seaspiracy Ali Tabrizi concludes that environmental organizations are calling for a ban on disposable plastic, but do not focus on the problem of nets, because they are funded by the fishing industry.
Farms are not the way out
About 50% of all fish and seafood are farmed, but they are also not environmentally friendly. Farms generate huge amounts of organic waste, and due to poor conditions, infectious diseases spread among them among fish. Therefore, about 50% of fish on farms die without reaching the buyer. Farm-raised salmon has a bright pink color only due to the chemical dyes that are added to the feed.
Let’s quote the conversation of The Village with Inna Goch, ichthyologist and head of the Water Department of the WWF-Ukraine World Wide Fund for Nature.
Why is catching too much fish harmful to the environment?
According to scientists data, from the total population of certain fish no more than 20% can be taken without harm. Then the remaining 80% will be reproduced. But the question of quantity is not so simple. Each population has juveniles that have not yet reached sexual maturity, sexually mature individuals that spawn constantly, and seniors that spawn irregularly but are large in size. In order not to exterminate the population, you have to catch older fish and a little amount of sexually mature ones.
If this rule is not followed, so-called overfishing occurs. This is when people catch so many fish that the population cannot recover over a period of time. The fewer fish there are, the less males and females meet to produce offspring. So populations of certain species disappear.
A classic example is the cod crisis in Canada. For centuries, the east coast of Canada near the island of Newfoundland was dotted with fishing communities, which only did what they caught cod. Despite scientists’ warnings that the cod population is overfished and that the number of nets and fishing pressure on the population need to be reduced, no one has listened. Eventually, by the early 1990s, the cod population had shrunk to 1% of previous data.
Interestingly, this topic is described in the book by Jules Verne “Twenty thousand pounds under water.” The heroes see a huge amount of cod from the porthole and say that if it had not been so fruitful, it would have been exterminated, because people catch millions of it. As we can see today, it’s still possible to destroy cod. In 1992, the Canadian government completely banned its catch, but it was too late. All fishing stopped, fishing companies went bankrupt and 35,000 fishermen lost their jobs.
There’s now virtually no cod on Canada’s east coast. Crustaceans came in its place: crabs, lobsters and shrimp. Industry officials are happy, because you can also make money on these species. However, according to recent data, it is not known for sure. Most likely, these will be invertebrates like jellyfish, and it is difficult to build a fishery on them.
How dangerous is overcatching?
There’s an approach that focuses on human needs, and an environmental approach. From a human point of view, when we destroy a population, it falls out of our diet. It needs to be replaced with something. From the point of view of nature, we destroy the relationships in the ecosystem, because all the components in it are interconnected. That is, we take food from someone competitor. Eventually we add fragility to the ecosystem, it changes. And the question is what it will be like when we exterminate everyone.
Is sustainable fishing possible?
It is possible, but there’s no universal recipe. Just like the ideal world, where there are no poachers and by-catch – a catch that accidentally fell into the nets. The question is how much it will be.
In my opinion, the main criterion for sustainable commercial fishing is the preservation of the population structure. This is influenced by fishing gear, place, time.
For example, there’s absolutely unacceptable fishing gear, such as electric killers, and bottom trawls are fishing gear that plow the bottom and completely destroy its ecosystem. They are officially banned, but poachers use them. There is no one-size-fits-all tool, it all depends on the type, location and time.