UBC study identifies destructive fisheries

A University of British Columbia study says industrial fisheries who rely on bottom trawling threw 437 million tons of fish worth $560 billion overboard over the past 65 years.

“Industrial fisheries do not bring everything they catch to port,” said Tim Cashion, lead author of the study, and a researcher with SeaAroundUs, an initiative at UBS’s Institute for Oceans and Fisheries.  “During the period we studied, they threw out over 750 million tons of fish and 60 percent of that waste was due to bottom trawlers alone,”

To reach this conclusion, Cashion said he and his colleagues identified the fishing tools used by industrial and artisanal fisheries in each maritime country and territory and paired them with millions of records in the SeaAroundUs catch database that includes reported and unreported catches by fishing country, fishing sector, year and species.

Researchers found that globally industrial and artisanal fisheries caught 5.6 billion tons of fish over the last 65 years. While nearly 28 percent of that catch was taken by industrial bottom trawl, this fishing technique accounts for nearly 60 percent of fisheries discards.

“They threw away fish that, even though are not the most valuable, are perfectly good for human consumption,” said Deng Palomares, co-author of the study and the SeaAroundUs project manager. “Had they landed that catch, they would have made $560 billion according to our prices dataset.

“The worst part is that, in general, bottom trawlers are so expensive to operate that the only way to keep them afloat is by giving them government subsidies.  In other words, it’s a wasteful and inefficient practice.”

The study, “Global use of marine fishing gears from 1950 to 2014: Catches and landed values by gear type and sector,” was published in Fisheries Research and is online at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165783618301097.

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