A new report by Oceana exposes nine U.S. fisheries that throw away half of what they catch, and kill dolphins, sea turtles, whales, and more in the process.
Culled by Oceana, the largest international organization for ocean conservation, the fisheries are ranked based on bycatch—the amount of unwanted creatures caught while commercial fishing. Combined, they’re responsible for 50 percent of reported bycatch nationwide.
At the dirtiest fishery, Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline Fishery, 66 percent of the animals caught are discarded—a number that includes more than 400,000 sharks in just one year. Close behind is California Set Gillnet Fishery, where 65 percent of animals caught are thrown away. The other seven dispensaries, spanning from coast to coast, are death traps for thousands of sea organisms each year. (Read the full list here).
“We’re allowing the capture and death of whales, dolphins, porpoises, turtles, and more,” Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director for Oceana tells The Daily Beast. While it’s technically a pro-ocean conservation organization, Oceana stresses that it’s pro-fishing too—but the safe kind. In the interest of bringing in huge quantities, commercial fishing techniques have turned grisly. “Gillnets,” or as Cano-Stacco refers to them “walls of death” are nets that can be as long as two miles. Meant to capture fish by the gills (hence the name), they snare anything from sea turtles to dolphins. “Trawls,” which Cano-Stacco has nicknamed “the bulldozers of the ocean,” are long nets that are dragged along the ocean floor, taking no prisoners in their path. “No matter if you’re looking at animal conservation, ecosystems, or just waste in general—at all nine fisheries, it’s a bad story,” she says.
As it stands now, the commercial fishing industry is eclipsing even the most advanced efforts to preserve the ocean’s natural habitat and protect endangered species. Cano-Stacco, for one, hopes that the study highlights not simply the problem, but the urgency for a solution. “If you don’t get bycatch under control, the other government programs won’t work,” says Cano-Stacco. “If you do, you not only save the ocean, you provide a potential solution to the human overpopulation crisis in the process.”