Pros & Cons Of Sustainable Fishing

We previously put together a guide where we explained what sustainable fishing is, and we also gave examples/a list of sustainable fishing practices.

In the guide below though, we outline what some of the potential pros and cons of sustainable fishing might be.

 

Summary – Pros & Cons Of Sustainable Fishing

Pros

There’s multiple sustainable fishing practices and methods

Can help address specific environmental issues

Can help maintain ecosystems and biodiversity

Can help manage resources better and more efficiently

Can help address human food (and protein) supply security issues 

There’s already examples around the world where sustainable fishing practices have shown to be effective in different ways

Fish farming and aquaculture in particular has some sustainable aspects to it (i.e. it’s not only open water fishing that can become more sustainable)

Different sustainable fishing practices can be implemented one by one as required by a fishing operation (which can allow the fishing operator to choose which practices to implement, and when, and maintain control over their business) 

 

Cons

There can be economic tradeoffs to some sustainable fishing practices

There can be challenges in terms of fishing at scale to meet food demand of the total population

Some practices are more sustainable in some ways, but still have their sustainability concerns in other ways

Some problems such as overfishing and species depletion can be impossible to reverse once a certain threshold or point is reached, even when sustainable fishing practices are used after the problem has set in

Can be difficult to enforce or police regulations and laws on sustainable fishing in some instances

Data quality, lack of reporting, and other factors can make managing fisheries difficult

Cultural differences, preferences and beliefs may make it hard to reduce or eliminate some unsustainable fishing practices in some instances

Fishermen and scientists can sometimes be looking at different things when assessing whether fish populations are adequate or not in an area – this can lead to disagreement on how to approach a particular issue

 

Pros Of Sustainable Fishing

There’s multiple sustainable fishing practices and methods

A list of these different practices and methods can be read here.

 

Can help address specific environmental issues 

Sustainable fishing practices can help address specific environmental issues, with waste pollution being one of them.

Two examples of how this might be achieved are the proper waste management of fishing gear at sea, and the proper management of waste from fish farming.

 

Can help maintain ecosystems and biodiversity

Sustainable fishing practices can also help maintain ecosystems and biodiversity.

Two examples of this are by reducing fishing practices that damage habitats, and by protecting fish population numbers so they don’t deplete past a certain point.

 

Can help manage resources better and more efficiently

There’s several ways resources can be managed better or more efficiently.

A few examples are:

– Fish themselves as a resource (in the form of food for humans, and even feed for livestock), can be managed via better fishery management

– Fuels and materials used for commercial fishing can be better managed used

– Feed and other resources (energy, water, etc) used for fish farming can be used more efficiently. Greener feed could also be used

 

Can help address human food (and protein) supply security issues 

Sustainable fishing practices can help conserve species populations, and reduce the frequency of overfishing, exploitation of fish, and essentially the depletion of fishery populations.

With fish being a main food and protein source for humans, sustainable fishing can help with food security.

Land based fish farming and open water based fish farming can further help with food production and security for humans.

Food security part of what provides accessible food for human populations both now, and also in the future.

 

There’s already examples around the world where sustainable fishing practices have shown to be effective in different ways

[Areas in the Philippines, South Pacific, and Native Hawaii have shown that different sustainable fishing practices can have a positive effect on different factors to do with fishing sustainability] (nationalgeographic.org)

 

Fish farming and aquaculture in particular has some sustainable aspects to it

Some sustainable aspects of aquaculture and the controlled farming of fish on land and in open water (as opposed to open ocean fishing with boats and nets) to note might be:

– There’s been several specific solutions developed over the last few decades to address previous criticisms about the sustainability and eco friendliness of fish farming i.e. it’s shown improvement in it’s impact in these areas

– Some types of Atlantic Salmon and some types of kelp might be sustainable and eco friendly in some ways

 

Sustainable fishing practices can be implemented one by one as required by a fishing operator

Sustainable fishing practices don’t have to be implemented all at once by fishing operators who might be uncertain of how they might impact their business.

They can be introduced progressively and selectively as required by the fishing operator i.e. they maintain control over their business and any potential risk involved.

 

Cons Of Sustainable Fishing

There can be economic tradeoffs to some sustainable fishing practices

There can be a number of economic tradeoffs when swapping from conventional fishing practices to some more sustainable ones.

Some of those may potentially include in some cases:

– Higher labor costs due to more time intensive fishing practices

– Lower profits and revenues due to not being able to catch at larger scales with certain methods, and also when quotas and protections of certain areas or species are in place

– There can also be higher sustainable seafood and farmed fish food costs for consumers when costs are passed onto them by fishing operators

In the instances of the first two points, these are risks and disincentives for fishing operators, so, any sustainable fishing practices or methods may need some type of support program to be developed for fishing operators to protect them and their businesses.

 

[It’s also worth mentioning that] targeting abundant fish species like the deep-sea bristlemouths isn’t always profitable (nationalgeographic.org)

 

There can be challenges in terms of fishing at scale to meet food demand of the total population

Some sustainable fishing practices simply aren’t designed to catch fish at scale, or catch fish easily and quickly.

This results in less production for a growing human population with growing food demands.

 

Some practices are more sustainable in some ways, but still have sustainability concerns in other ways

Some types of fish farming are an example of this, where there can still be multiple ways it impacts the environment, or raises sustainability issues, depending on the production methods used

Even land based fish farming uses a % of wild caught fish for fish meal and oils (which may put pressure of fisheries), and still has a resource usage footprint to consider, in the form of water, energy, etc.

 

Some problems such as overfishing and species depletion can be impossible to reverse once a certain threshold or point is reached

As one example:

– … once trout have been overfished, carp might take over in a way that makes it impossible for the trout to re-establish a breeding population (wikipedia.org)

 

Having said this, some commentators on ocean sustainability challenge this claim.

 

Can be difficult to enforce or police some sustainable fishing regulations and laws

Due to limited resources, or because of how large the ocean is, it can be hard to enforce policies and laws, and police different areas of the ocean to stop activities like illegal fishing.

Border disputes, the migration of fish populations, and other factors can also play a part in this.

 

Data quality, lack of reporting, and other factors can make managing fisheries difficult

According to wikipedia.org, the management of fisheries by scientists can be challenging due to problems with data quality, a lack of reporting on different issues like illegal fishing, and inconsistencies with factors such as baselines.

 

Cultural differences, preferences and beliefs may make it hard to reduce or eliminate some unsustainable fishing practices

As one example of this, some cultures and societies may place importance on a specific body part of a specific water species because of their belief in it’s properties for medical, spiritual or other reasons.

In these instances, it can be difficult to reduce or eliminate the fishing of these species for the sake of sustainability.

 

Fishermen and scientists can sometimes be looking at different things when assessing whether fish populations are adequate or not in an area – this can lead to disagreement on the best approach to certain issues

Fishermen may fish areas where they know fish are, whereas scientists may analyse an entire fishery area.

If fishermen and scientists are looking at two different sets of data when it comes to population numbers, they may disagree on how to manage certain fisheries, or manage certain issues affecting sustainability. 

 

Sources

1. https://bettermeetsreality.com/16-biggest-problems-for-our-oceans-coasts-marine-life/

2. https://bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-save-the-ocean-solutions-to-ocean-pollution-degradation-threats-to-marine-life/

3. https://cimioutdoored.org/fishing-methods-for-a-sustainable-future/

4. https://www.oceanwatch.org.au/latest-news/sustainable-fishing/5-ways-industry-is-keeping-seafood-sustainable-in-australia-for-sustainableseafoodday/

5. https://greentumble.com/sustainable-fishing-practices/

6. https://www.msc.org/what-we-are-doing/our-approach/what-is-sustainable-fishing

7. https://animals.howstuffworks.com/animal-facts/top-5-sustainable-fishing-practices.htm

8. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/sustainable-fishing/

9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_fishery

10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overfishing

11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsustainable_fishing_methods

12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_seafood

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