Wild caught fish feed millions of people worldwide. In order to make this possible for future generations, it is important that the waters in which fish are caught are treated responsibly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. On this page we describe the three main problems that play around wild caught fish: overfishing, damage to the seabed and bycatch.
The first major problem with wild caught fish is overfishing. A fish species is overfished if the amount of fish caught surpasses the amount of new fish, resulting in a decline in the fish population. If measures are not taken, there is a risk that the fish stock will be endangered and, in extreme cases, go extinct. An example of a measure for overfishing is the introduction of a fish quota. All members of the European Union must comply with this and may not fish more than the quota prescribes.
Negative effects on the seabed
The second problem is the damage that certain fishing methods cause to the seabed. The long-term use of harmful fishing methods, such as beam trawls and bottom otter trawls, disrupts and damages seabed life. Sea anemones and corals can no longer grow and the species composition changes considerably. This is the case, for example, in the southern part of the North Sea. Long-term use of harmful fishing methods has transformed entire seabeds into sandy plains. Although it is still a good fishing ground for flatfish, many other species have disappeared. By switching to fishing methods that do not damage the seabed and avoid sensitive areas, the negative effects on the seabed can be alleviated.
Many fishermen use fishing techniques that are not selective, which leads to a lot of by-catch. Part of this by-catch consists of dolphins, sharks and turtles. The other part consists of fish species that can be eaten well, but are discarded because the market value is low. The survival rate of these ‘discards’ is only 15 to 30 percent. By choosing bycatch fish more often as a consumer, the market value will increase and it will be more profitable for fishermen to take these under-utilised species ashore.
Click here if you want to know exactly which fish species are under-utilised and specified as ‘bycatch’.