Encourage Sustainable Fishing Practices


Target: Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Goal: Decrease the number of animals accidentally caught and killed by major fisheries

When massive fisheries casts their wide nets into the ocean they end up catching unintended animals. “Bycatch” is a term used to refer to this wasted catch, a phenomenon that stems from the increased reach of major fishing operations. For example, while intended for tuna a net is bound to ensnare some fish and other animals that are not tuna, such as sea turtles and dolphins.

Overfishing is already an issue. There is a high demand for certain fish, and companies attempting to respond to that demand often harvest fish stocks at unsustainable rates, damaging fragile ecosystems. Fish populations cannot replenish themselves fast enough to deal with the rate of depletion. Bycatch only compounds this issue. The animals unintentionally caught in fishing nets typically end up dying, their lives wasted. These can and do include threatened and endangered species, as large nets often catch whatever they come in contact with.

Reuters estimations that over $1 billion, or two million pounds of fish, were wasted as bycatch in 2010 alone–a fifth of all fish caught that year. These poor animals are often tossed back into the ocean once fishing boats have reached their quota for a particular species, or when the species is considered of a poorer quality than the intended catch.

Therefore, to get rid of this waste we are calling on the United States government to encourage good fishing practices and to punish excessive bycatch. This could be accomplished by, for example, taxing bycatch and providing special labeling to highlight companies that have reduced their waste to acceptable levels. Urge fishing regulators to strengthen policies to reduce bycatch and save already depleted fish populations.


Dear Ms. Sobeck,

Every year an average of $1 billion is wasted in bycatch. A fifth of all fish that are caught are thrown back into the ocean after they have been sorted through, typically after the animals have already died. This tremendous waste hurts fisheries and the economy as a whole, and puts further strain on ocean ecosystems at the tipping point of collapse.

Overfishing is already a problem and is only compounded by the tremendous amount of bycatch. It is in everyone’s best interest to reduce this waste of life as much as possible. A great place to start would be for fishing operations to only catch their intended species without accidentally picking up other animals along the way. This could be accomplished by taxing bycatch, or by rewarding fisheries that use sustainable practices with preferential labeling.

However you ultimately decide to do so, I urge you to enact legislation that encourages better fishing practices focused on significantly reducing bycatch.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Apoc2400 via Wikimedia Commons

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