Fishing harms other wildlife

It’s not just fish that suffer…

By-catch is the marine life caught unintentionally whilst catching other fish. It is a major global problem and estimated that 40% of global marine catch is by-catch with the unwanted and unusable species thrown back into the sea, dead and wasted (3).  However, reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy has included a ban on fish discards to take effect gradually between 2014 and 2016.
Cetaceans (Whales, dolphins and porpoises)

The relationship between pelagic trawl fisheries (catching fish in open sea) and cetaceans in the English Channel was investigated and showed that the winter population of dolphins could become depleted as a result of by-catch (14). Out at sea an estimated 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in fishing nets every year. A report from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society revealed the truth behind the entanglement of whales, dolphins and porpoises in fishing nets and gear. It highlighted the suffering of animals and provided details of how cetaceans slowly meet their death in fishing nets, many of which suffer extreme injuries through underwater struggles to free themselves (15, 16, 17).  
Seals and Sea-Lions 

An estimated 3,500 seals are killed each year in Scotland because fish farmers consider them a threat to farmed salmon (9,18). There is an alleged practice of shooting sea-lions, in Mexico and California, which were hunting in fishing nets (19). The Canadian Seal Hunt is the biggest slaughter of marine mammals where over 1.25 million seals have been killed (20). The slaughter happened to allegedly protect fish stocks and aid recovery of the Atlantic cod but now the seals are just killed for their fur. It was actually commercial over-fishing which led to the collapse of the cod population, not the harp seal population. Seals may actually help in the recovery of Atlantic cod as they prey on its rival the Arctic Cod (21). Using creatures as scapegoats for commercial over fishing reinforces the perceived need for their culling. A global study showed that marine mammals and fishing fleets rarely prey heavily on the same fish stocks (22,23).  

In 2006 Iceland officially resumed commercial whaling after 17 years. However, the whale watching industry contributed more to the national economy than commercial whaling. The Icelandic Fisheries Ministry issued a permit to hunt 39 whales for commercial purposes, of which 9 were endangered fin whales. In January 2009 Iceland announced a large 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).  

Long-line fishing practices kill 300,000 albatrosses and other sea birds each year (25a) with 17 of the 21 species of albatross now facing extinction (25b). One study showed that fishermen caught and killed about 1% of the world’s waved albatrosses in a year. These large long-lived birds have slow reproduction rates and are especially vulnerable to extinction (26).
Over-fishing, by-catch, climate change, invasive species and coastal development all contribute to declining numbers of marine species. According to the Global Marine Species Assessment of over 10,500 species assessed so far, 15% have an elevated risk of extinction (27).


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