Recent news headlines have made public the disturbing trend of Purse Seine fishing nets intentionally being set around Whale Sharks. The latter are often followed by schooling fish such as Tuna, Mackerel, Salmon, and Sardines, which gather beneath the large Plankton-feeding sharks. Fishermen encircle entire aggregations, trapping Whale Sharks and their target species, essentially using the sharks as bait.Image ℗ Greenpeace
In the Western and central Pacific Ocean, the use of Purse Seine nets is prevalent, and this fishing method has one of the highest incidences of by-catch. Purse Seines are the preferred method in trapping schooling species near the surface. The United States have the biggest Purse Seine fishing fleets in the world.
The 'Seine' nets can stretch out to a mile at sea and extend over 1,000 feet (300 meters) underwater. These huge nets hang vertically in the water, held in place with weights at the bottom and floats at the surface. Purse Seines place several rings at the base of the nets with a 'purse line' passing through all rings, enabling a 'drawstring' effect once the line is tightened by fishermen and the net is hauled onboard the fishing vessel.
Although Whale Sharks are listed as 'Vulnerable' by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List, fishing fleets can legally target them in Purse Seine fishing. Since 2009, there have been 75 documented Whale Shark deaths due to the practice, and in countries like China, Whale Shark fishing is on the rise. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission will have to make a decision on how to respond to Australia's recent proposed ban on targeting Whale Sharks in Purse Seine fishing. Japan has already made efforts to stall restrictions of this nature, most likely in an bid to protect the huge profits they amass from Whale Shark catches.
Whale Sharks caught in Purse Seine nets may not be the primary target of fishermen, but more than 10% of the sharks caught die from the stress of being removed from the water and placed on the deck of a vessel where they often succumbs to the weight of their own body mass.
The Human Society International is "perplexed and dismayed by continuing delays in adopting such basic and sensible safeguards for these globally threatened and economically important species" (Rebecca Regnery, HSI).
Whale Sharks generate millions of dollars in revenue for multiple nations around the world participating in marine eco-tourism. The gentle giants of the sea, Whale Sharks filter feed on the water's surface and are becoming a vastly popular animal to swim with in the wild. Whale Shark interactions are incredibly profitable, and support a growing tourism industry worldwide. Protecting this species is not only important ecologically, but also economically; especially for small island nations who depend on tourism generated by visiting Whale Sharks in their waters.
Citation: WhySharksMatter. "Bad news for Whale Sharks: The world's largest fish are being killed for bait and billboards". Southern Fried Science. 5.04.12. http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=12892. Wikipedia. "Seine Fishing". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seine_fishing
FAD is the acronym for the term Fish Aggregation Device, a contraption used thoughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. FAD's are man-made devices used to attract large pelagic fish such as Tuna, Marlin, and Mahi-Mahi (Dolphin fish). A fish Aggregation device is usually constructed with buoys, rope, and floats stabilized by concrete blocks pinned to the ocean floor. FAD's can be made of simply organic materials such as palm leaves or bamboo, while commercial fishing fleets build smart FAD's complete with sonar and GPS components enabling fast coordinates of location and abundance of fish life.
Fish are seemingly fascinated by the optical stimuli of a FAD, which offers an attractive alternative hangout in the vast blue expanse of the ocean. FAD's also offer protection for small juvenile fish who gather under the device in the hopes of being missed by passing predators. However, juvenile fish aggregating under a FAD are what make the device so successful. Large predatory fish such as tuna and marlin are attracted to the small prey, and in turn even large predators such as sharks follow suit and come in to hunt larger fish.
In 2005, FAD's pumped the productivity of Purse Seine fishing to a staggering 1 million ton of tuna caught around the world that year. The sheer enormity of this catch represents over 1/3 of the total available stocks of tuna on earth.
Some of the largest and most sophisticated Fish Aggregation Devices provide a platform from which entire eco-systems emerge. Although a fishery may only be targeting tuna, their FAD's will attract a plethora of sea life, from tiny fishes to top predators, and Purse Seine's are indiscriminate in their catch method. They scoop up everything in their path, which all too often includes a greater proportion of wildlife they are not targeting. And so the by-catch is returned to the sea, dead or dying, and the FAD is wiped clean, awaiting the next influx of fish to begin the process all over again.
Citation: Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. "Fish Aggregating Device" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_aggregating_device
The recent Economist World Ocean summit in Singapore had an eclectic list of attenders, from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's) to the China Fishery Group to Tiffany & Co. This year's summit was all about finding solutions to ensure biodiversity and abundance in the sea could survive today, and recover and thrive in the future.
With over 1 billion people on earth relying on seafood as their main source of protein, everyone would do well to invest in protecting was is left in our oceans, so that reefs and vast expanses of sea can recuperate from decades of exploitation.
There is no question that our oceans, rivers, and waterways support the planet in more ways than one. Every man, woman and child breathes oxygen purified by our oceans, benefits from the marine transport industry, and depends on the marine biodiversity nurturing life on land. With our climate ever changing and our link to the ocean as clear as day, our biggest challenge now is to restore the health of our blue planet.
Big topics of discussion at this month's summit were Supply chains, Seafood security, and ocean pollution. Marine species such as krill and Algae are used in the production of pharmaceuticals, paints, and toothpaste. Humans rely on countless everyday products sourced from the sea, although most of us are completely unaware of this. Many of the large predatory species like Blue Fin Tuna, 'Chilean Sea Bass' (i.e.Patagonian Toothfish), and Pacific Salmon are threatened with extinction due to incessant over-fishing, while fishing communities all over the world are suffering in the face of plummeting fish stocks.
Initiatives like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) are setting the bar for sustainable fishing practices and proper management of our marine resources. Companies and individuals alike are encouraged to promote and consume seafood that has been sourced ethically and protects species fished beyond sustainable levels. The certified seafood sold with approval from the MSC is easy to spot and a great way to promote your 'eco-friendly' business or simply feel better about consuming these marine products.Logo © Marine Stewardship Council
It is no surprise that the World Oceans Summit saw 'big business' unite to find solutions for our most pressing environmental issues. However, consideration of the economic, political and social implications in making changes to the global fisheries sector will be a tough obstacle for bringing real goals to fruition.
In the words of the esteemed Dr. Sylvia Earle, the ocean is a "living system that shapes the character of the planet". Without oceans in balance, complete with healthy habitats and ecosystems, the 350 million jobs that depend on the sea will be lost along with the ocean's ability to support over a billion people with seafood.
By increasing the current 1% of ocean terrain under some type of protection, we can begin to rehabilitate regions collapsing under the pressures of industry, pollution, and exploitation. Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) have been extremely successful in areas where ecosystems have been left to replenish stocks and rebuild damaged habitats. Increasing the percentage of 'ocean sanctuaries' is an investment in our planet's future, and more governments and private sectors are finally beginning to see MPA's as worthwhile and necessary.
In the Solomon Islands and Kenya, after 5 years of protecting certain marine regions, fish stocks have returned and incomes have doubled. Furthermore, in 'hot spots' like the Great Barrier Reef, which brings in over $2.8 billion in tourism profits, increased protection and regulation in these waters could secure the continued success of an eco-tourism industry welcoming over 2 million people each year.
One of the most exciting initiatives to be discussed in Singapore was the Global Partnership for Oceans, a booming collection of governments, international organizations, groups and private sector interests dedicated to addressing the biggest threats to our marine environment in the hopes of ensuring healthy, productive and resilient oceans for future generations.
Tackling huge issues such as over-fishing, pollution, and habitat loss will be challenging, but with the support and involvement of industry and government, we have a promising conglomeration of powerhouses capable of implementing the changes that could save our oceans, and planet.
Given the current state of our ocean environment, one can quickly become disheartened by the destruction of marine habitats, loss of biodiversity and increasing pollution. More the reason to focus on the 'good stuff', the countless organizations and movements pushing for change, joining forces to challenge the status quo and revolutionize the way humans relate to their marine environment. It is with certainty that we are tied to the sea, and my hope is that individuals, corporations, and government will stand up in defense of the heart of our planet, our life-system, our oceans. Before it is too late.Image © Cree Indian Prophecy
Citation: Jung, Jayne. "The World Bank Plunges Into Ocean Issues", Forbes. 28.02.12. Global Partnership for Oceans. http://www.globalpartnershipforoceans.org/
Blue Fin tuna. A prized catch, highly profitable, large and rare. These characteristics contribute to the ever-growing and insatiable demand for Blue Fin Tuna, which can yield up to $1000.00/Kg in some markets. This delicious fish has faced incessant harvesting and continued efforts to increase catch quotas and economic opportunities.
Global Blue Fin populations have declined so much in recent decades that this specie is now on the brink of extinction along with Salmon, sharks, Loggerhead turtles, and Atlantic Cod. These are just some of the ocean species who have had their populations completely decimated by over-fishing.
The International Program on the State of the Ocean reports that "the combined affects of overfishing, fertilizer run-off, pollution, and ocean acidification from Carbon Dioxide emissions are putting much marine life at immediate risk of extinction".
It is certainly not only Blue Fin tuna that is the target and victim of overfishing, and no marine animal can escape the repercussions of a decline in ocean health. Research findings and population estimates have provided the information we need to create sustainable solutions for our living oceans. Measures to recover fish species like Blue Fin tuna should take precedent if we are planning to consume seafood in the future.
Threatened marine populations are the clearest indicators of damage to our seas and we should take action to remedy this problem. Instead of aggressively pursuing the remaining Blue Fin tuna, there should be an inclination toward reducing our consumption of this fish so it may begin to recover in the wild. Our shortage of political will, leadership and resolve to do right by our precious ocean resources may have consequences beyond what we can fathom.
Please be aware of your consumption of seafood and be informed on how your fish was caught, where it came from, and whether it is a sustainable specie. Awareness and education will help curb the current trend of unsustainable fishing around the world. If the demand stops, so will the unethical practices that define Global Fisheries today.
Information on sustainable fish guides can be found here:
David Suzuki's Sustainable Seafood guide: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/eat-for-a-healthy-planet/suzukis-top-10-sustainable-seafood-picks/
Sea Choice: Choosing Sustainable Seafood: http://seachoice.org/
Greenpeace Red List: Fish to avoid: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/seafood/red-list-of-species/how-on-the-red-list
The Global Fisheries industry encompasses some of the most powerful nations in the world, including the European Union. Made up of dominating fishing countries, the EU once had some of the richest fishing grounds in the ocean. In the past century, countries like Spain, Denmark, France and the United Kingdom fished the bountiful North Sea and provided nearly 5% of global fish catches annually. However, over the last 50 years an increase in size and number of fishing fleets and aggressive methods of catching have left fish stocks in the North Sea way down. The EU now imports the great majority of its favoured fish species from neighbouring countries and even China.
After a desire to understand the industrial side of his nation's fisheries, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall decided to take a journey to the inside of today's Global Fisheries. His findings were indicative of the worldwide trend of 'discarding' unwanted species of fish at sea, or simply throwing away fish that are above quota limits. In short, Fearnley-Whittingstall found that 1/2 the fish caught in the North Sea were thrown back to the ocean dead or dying.
The Fish Fight campaign is the result of a man's quest to seek the truth behind fisheries' hidden agenda, and his resolve to act upon the shameful cruelties taking place in our world's oceans. Since the launch of the Fish Fight campaign, 770,000 people have signed a petition to the British Government, urging parliament and responsible ministers to end 'discarding' at sea.
Eco-Odyssey supports this campaign and movement towards exposing the true nature of Global Fisheries, including wasteful fishing practices killing millions of tons of animals each year. Please visit the Fish Fight campaign website to learn about this important issue, for the enormity of by-catch and wasting of nutritious seafood is a worldwide problem that needs to end.
If you support this campaign, sign the petition and take a active stance against 'discarding' at sea: http://www.fishfight.net/sign-up/
Link to the Eco-Odyssey Video page for a short clip featuring the Fish Fight in action! http://www.eco-odyssey.com/main/multimedia-2/clips.html
A recent report from the "Radio New Zealand News" claims commercial fishing fleets could be contributing to the decline of native Sea Lion populations from the Auckland and Campbell islands.
In "Marine researchers say commercial fishing could be killing off New Zealand's largest population of native Sea Lions", researchers share drastic figures showing a massive unexplained reduction in breeding and births since 2009. Ruling out factors such as diseases infecting the Sea Lions, scientists are exploring more plausible causes such as by-catch incidents and reduction in food availability due to increased competition with fishermen for squid.
With less than 10,000 remaining native Sea Lions, it remains imperative that the true cause for this massive decline of this species be found. Minister of Fisheries deepwater manager Aoife Martin states wildlife safety is a major concern and that fishing fleets are developing methods in which to safeguard these animals.
For more on this story, please link to the article here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/81683/fishing-major-factor-in-sea-lion-decline-research
As the word becomes more and more aware of the impending consequences of industrialized fishing, there are great sources of information being compiled listing the species with severely depleted stocks, and those populations still healthy in numbers. With this data, researchers have made suggestions available to the masses about which fish to avoid consuming as well as sustainable species recommended for eating.
An article from the Guardian.co.uk puts forth a detailed list of sustainable and threatened fish species using data from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, FishWatch, and the Marine Conservation Society to create an in-depth resource helping us to choose our fish wisely.
In this day-in-age, humans can contribute to improve the dangers facing our marine species by simply learning about how to make ethical consumption choices that do not threaten the stability of global fish stocks.
To view list of sustainable fish species, click to David Stark's blog on:http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jul/21/fishing-ethical-shopping-choices#data, or visit any of the three above mentioned organizations to learn more about this important topic.
As debates and concerns continue over the state of our world fisheries, Sea Shepherd conservation society is working to actively protect some of our most threatened ocean species. This progressive group of dedicated people are well known for getting to the heart of the most pressing issues, and ensuring their presence is felt and heard.
Blue Fin Tuna fishing is one of the most profitable and volatile industries today, seeing a 70% decline in fish stocks since 1970. Despite efforts of the world's leading conservation and protection agencies, control over fishing regulations is a very complex and slow process, having little success in effectively protecting the Blue Fin Tuna stocks from collapsing.
World Fish stocks have reached an all time low, and are having a devastating effect on ocean ecosystems around the world. The Blue Fin Tuna is a prime example of how continuous exploitation of a top predatory fish is void of true concern for the sustainability of its populations. This type of practice is evident with most species targeted today.
Sea Shepherd Campaign Status: Operation Blue Rage 2011 For more information on the current efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in protecting the Blue Fin Tuna, click to the full article here: http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/news-110622-1.html
FIsh Farming in answer to growing meat demands, says report:
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
This article highlights many statistics surrounding the fisheries industry, thus providing a concise look into its current state of affairs.
"Fish consumption reaches all-time high", http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/50260/icode/
Canadian Broadcasting Federation
New Zealand fisheries are not as healthy as some claim. If you choose ecologically sustainable seafood you will help improve New Zealand's fishing practices and return our oceans to an abundance and health.
For more information on each fish species and the assessment processes used to produce the BEST FISH GUIDE, go to: www.bestfishguide.org.nz
"I believe we all have a moral obligation to defend our eco-systems from diminishment and destruction and that we owe future generations the right to a healthy and diverse environment. We have no right to rob them of the rich treasures that this planet contains just to satisfy our selfish material desires. What inspires me is the beauty and the magnificence of Planet Earth and especially our oceans"
-Sea Shepherd Conservation founder Paul Watson