Sustainable fishing can be a broadly used term, but in this guide we give a general description of what sustainable fishing might be.
We also provide a list what some of the most common sustainable fishing practices and methods might be, and give some examples.
Summary – Sustainable Fishing Practices
As opposed to focussing primarily on economic objectives, sustainable fishing practices may place more of an emphasis on balancing economic viability with the priorities of environmental impact, impact on natural resources, and impact on wildlife numbers, biodiversity, and other related factors
There may also be both a short term and long term outlook to sustainable fishing, compared to having more of a short term outlook
Sustainable fishing practices can be applied to recreational fishing or commercial fishing, but might have the most impact commercially because of the scale of it.
They can also be applied to various types of fishing, such as open water fishing, but also fish farming and aquaculture
They can include a range of practices from making fish feed more sustainable, to using capture practices that reduce or eliminate damage to the ocean floor
As two examples, sustainable fishing might help maintain fish as a key source of protein and calories for a growing human population, and, it may also help maintain animals species populations that are important to both humans, and also ocean and open water ecosystems
It’s worth noting that although sustainable fishing can have it’s benefits, it can also have trade offs, limitations and conflicts of priorities to consider
What Is Sustainable Fishing?
Sustainable fishing might be any fishing practice that:
– Balances the economic objectives of a fishing activity with it’s impact on the environment, on natural resources, and also on wildlife populations (including numbers, but also biodiversity, etc.)
– And, has a short term as well as long term outlook on the impact of the fishing activities
What Might Be Some Of The Goals Sustainable Fishing?
sustainweb.org indicates that conventional commercial fishing can contribute to a range of issues such as ‘[Overfishing, habitat damage, bycatch of vulnerable species, and discards, and pirate fishing]’
So, sustainable fishing practices might involve practices, methods or activities that:
– Reduce overfishing, and maintaining healthy fishery populations
– Help protect certain species and certain geographical areas
– Reduce bycatching
– Reduce destructive fishing (of habitats and the ocean floor)
– Responsibly manage fish farms and aquaculture
– Use resources efficiently for fishing activities
– Use proper waste management, and have consideration for environment
– Look at retailer and consumer stage activities, behaviors, and factors for fish products
A list of sustainable fishing practices and methods, along with some examples might be …
Reduce Overfishing, & Maintaining Healthy Fishery Populations
Overfishing involves fishing past the critical threshold of total population numbers of a certain species.
And wikipedia.org indicates that ‘In terms of marine fishing, one estimate says that due to irresponsible fishing practices “85 percent of the world’s fisheries are fished at or beyond their maximum sustainable limit”
Sustainable fishing practices would involve:
– Staying within recommendations, guidelines, regulations and laws that specify catch limits (or quotas) per person, or per operation, over a certain time period. Catch and release might be part of this practice. Licenses can also help
– Being aware of fish populations that are already overfished, or recovering from from being fished to near depletion numbers. In some parts of the world, Bluefin Tuna might be an example
– Having better monitoring of fishing activities
– Addressing unreported fishing and pirate fishing
– Having adequate punishments and penalties for those found violating regulations and laws
– Having a plan to manage invasive species may be something that fishery managers also need to work on in the future
– Target freshwater bodies of water, as well as the ocean – ‘Overfishing also occurs in freshwater ecosystems’ (nationalgeographic.org)
– Better overall fishery management using scientific data, and better enforcing of rules and regulations
– Better management of international waters, and imports and exports
– One way to reduce overfishing is for consumers to swap out some of the seafood or fish thy are eating to another meat
Help Protect Certain Species & Certain Geographical Areas
Some species are protected for a range of reasons, with just a few being that their numbers are close to extinction, they are an important species to the natural food chain, to preserve biodiversity, or to allow that species to stay at a sustainable population size given their breeding and growth rate.
So, sustainable fishing practices would make sure that protected species are not caught by accident, or on purpose, regardless of whether they are eventually sold or not.
As one example, some predator species sharks are targeted during fishing for their fins, to use in fin soup.
Another example is some types of whales that are targeted.
It’s worth noting that only a small % of the ocean in general is currently protected.
Bycatching is when non target species fish and other wildlife are caught using a specific fishing practice.
These non target species sometimes survive unharmed, but sometimes they survive and are injured, and sometimes they die.
Bycatching can lead to other problems like overfishing and protected species being caught.
So, sustainable fishing practices should reduce or eliminate the frequency of bycatching.
[Gillnetting and drift netting, some forms of longlining, and some forms of purse seining can be responsible for bycatching, whilst trolling can be more sustainable when fish and indirectly caught species are released right away] (cimioutdoored.org)
[In Australia, turtle excluder devices, bird bafflers, fish chutes, and long line depth release hooks might be used to reduce bycatch] (oceanwatch.org.au)
[Hook and line pole catching, harpooning, traps, trolling, purse seining and longlining, can all help reduce bycatch] (greentumble.com)
[Hook and line, spearfishing, cast nets, and rod and reel might be ways to reduce bycatch] (nationalgeographic.org)
Fish farming is another way to largely eliminate bycatching.
Reduce Destructive Fishing
Destructive fishing practices destroy or damage habitats, and the ocean floor.
So, sustainable fishing practices should look to avoid this.
Specific forms of more destructive fishing might include some types of bottom trawling, and some types of drag net fishing.
Cyanide fishing and dynamite fishing can also be destructive, but are used less.
Specific forms of fishing that might be less destructive might be regular rod and line fishing, spearfishing, manual cast net fishing, fly fishing,
Responsibly Manage Fish Farms & Aquaculture
Fish farms can be set up in existing bodies of water like fresh water bodies, and the ocean.
But, they can also be set up in ponds, tanks and enclosures on land.
The potential environmental impacts of farmed fish can be numerous – escaped fish, waste pollution, and so on.
There’s also the wild fish that need to be caught to be used as fish feed meal for some farmed fish, and the resources that go into running fish farms.
Some of the sustainable aspects of fish farming and aquaculture that have already been implemented might include:
– Sustainability improvements over the last few decades that address previously environmental criticisms of fish farming
– Using fish feed that is considered more sustainable or eco friendly, or resource efficient
– Specific types of farmed fish like some types of Atlantic Salmon, or Kelp
Efficient Use Of Resources For Fishing Activities, Proper Waste Management, & Consideration For Environment
Fishing activities in general use resources or materials such as fuel for boats, plastic for lines, meat as bait, energy for cold storage, and so on.
So, sustainable fishing practices would seek to use these resources efficiently, or use cleaner fuel (or fuel from renewable energy sources) for example on fishing vessels
In the case of materials like plastic and fishing gear – it would also be more sustainable to make sure they are not dumped in the ocean, but properly managed as waste.
Ghost fishing is an example of fishing where nets and other gear are left or lost at sea, and they can entangle wildlife, or get caught on the ocean floor.
One more way that the environment might be considered in fishing activities is by using lead free tackle and weights.
*Retailer & Consumer Stage Activities, Behaviors & Factors Related To Fish Products
People often think of fishing activities themselves when thinking about sustainability.
However, there’s post fishing activities, further down the supply and consumption chain, that can make fishing more sustainable:
– Sell/utilize as much of the body of the catch as possible – don’t use one body part (such as just the fin of a shark), and throw away the rest of the body
– Consider the full lifecycle assessment of fishing, including processing, refrigeration, packing and logistics/transport, and how these areas might become more sustainable
– Label sustainably caught or sustainably produced fish and other water species food so consumers know when they are buying it. And, consider some type of certification labelling by a recognized independent third party that guarantees fish are farmed or caught in a transparent sustainable way
– Better consumer awareness for what sustainable fish and seafood is, and what it involves
– Restaurants and businesses that sell food caught from the water or farmed in the water may also consider whether they can source sustainably caught or farmed food
– Consumers shouldn’t waste or unnecessarily waste the seafood and fish farm consumer level food they buy, as this equates to indirectly wasted resources
Other Resources On Ocean Sustainability
We have previously put together guides that outline issues for the ocean and ocean organisms (including fishing and non fishing related issues), as well as what potential solutions might be here: