Fishing harms other wildlife
It’s not just fish that suffer either…….
By-catch is the incidental capture of non target species such as mammals, birds, turtles, fish and other marine animals. It is recognized as a major problem in many parts of the world and estimated that 23% of global fisheries catch is thrown back into the sea dead and wasted(3).
Cetaceans (Whales, dolphins and porpoises) - The relationship between pelagic trawl fisheries and cetaceans in the English Channel (survey data) showed that the winter population of dolphins could well become depleted as a result of by-catch. Pelagic trawling catches fish that live in the open sea, away from the bottom. More studies of by-catch assessment are urgently needed(14). Out at sea, an estimated 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in fishing nets every year. In a 2009 report from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) they revealed the disturbing truth behind the entanglement of whales, dolphins and porpoises in fishing nets/gear. The investigation highlights the suffering of these animals and provides details of how cetaceans slowly meet their death in fishing nets, many of which suffer extreme injuries through their underwater struggle to free themselves when trapped (15, 16, 17).
Seals/Sea-Lions - An estimated 3,500 seals are killed each year in Scotland alone because fish farmers consider them a threat to farmed salmon(9,18). There is also an alleged practice of shooting sea-lions (in places such as Mexico and California) who were looking for a captive lunch in the fishermen’s nets(19). The Canadian Seal Hunt is the biggest slaughter of marine mammals, where over the past 4 years over 1.25 millions seals have been killed (20). The killing was initially undertaken allegedly to protect fish stocks and aid recovery of the Atlantic cod. Now the seals are killed solely for their fur. It was commercial over-fishing which lead to the collapse of the cod population in 1992. The harp seal population has been blamed for its depletion when in fact it is though they could help in the recovery of Atlantic cod as they prey on its rival the Arctic Cod (21).
Fishermen often accuse whales and seals of contributing to the decline of already diminishing fish stocks. By using these creatures as scapegoats for commercial over fishing this reinforces the perceived need for their culling by some individuals. A global study by Marine Biologist Kristin Kaschner in 2004 showed that marine mammals and fishing fleets rarely prey heavily on the same fish stocks (22,23).
In 2006 Iceland, after 17 years, officially resumed commercial whaling. Their whale watching industry contributed more to the national economy than commercial whaling ever did. The Icelandic Fisheries Ministry issued a permit to hunt 39 whales for commercial purposes, nine of these are endangered fin whales, which dismisses claims that the hunt is sustainable. January 2009 saw Iceland announce a massive increase in their whaling quota over the next 5 years, with up to an annual quota of 100 minke whales and 150 fin whales (24).
Birds - Long-line fishing practices kill approximately 100,000 albatrosses and other sea birds each year, with 17 of the 21 species of albatross now face extinction(25). A 2006 study by Wake Forest University Biologists has shown that fishermen have caught and killed about 1% of the world’s waved albatrosses in a year. These large long-lived birds have slow reproduction and are especially vulnerable to extinction(26).
Over-fishing, by-catch, climate change, invasive species and coastal development have resulted in a decline in the number of marine species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species 2008 showed that approximately 17% of sharks and their relatives, 27% of the world’s coral 845 species of reed-building corals, 25% of marine mammals, 27% of seabirds and six of the seven species of marine turtle are all threatened(27).
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