Consumers and Fishermen
Around the world, regulations dealing with overfishing and other ocean issues are, in many areas, weak and poorly enforced. While all of us—consumers and fishermen alike—can produce positive change, individuals can't do it all. Innovative management is essential, using proven measures like those below, customized to each fishery.
Requiring Catch Limits
Overfishing is one of the biggest issues facing the health of our ocean. Management agencies need to set catch limits that help ensure the health of species and preserve their roles in the ecosystem.
Reaping the Benefits of Less Damaging Gear
In many places, fishermen have made modifications to their gear or switched to different gears altogether to reduce bycatch and habitat damage. This includes requiring devices that allow turtles to escape from nets, the use of less harmful "circle hooks" and modifications to trawls to reduce their impact on the living seafloor.
Stopping Illegal Fishing
About a fifth of the world's catch is illegal. Effective enforcement can help eliminate this drain on ocean resources. One example is the wasteful practice of shark finning, where the shark's fins are removed and the rest of the animal is thrown overboard to die a slow death. This practice, while illegal in over 100 nations, continues to threaten shark populations worldwide.
Creating "Yosemites of the Sea"
Similar to state and national parks on land, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) preserve prime undersea habitat, allowing marine wildlife to recover and thrive. These safe havens result in larger, more abundant fish, plants and other marine life. Management agencies should continue to expand the network of MPAs.
Taking an "Ecosystem" Approach
The Pew Oceans Commission recommended that Congress push for an "ecosystem" approach to fishery management, rather than the traditional approach of managing a fishery's impact on individual species. This emphasizes interactions among species and the environments in which they live. U.S. conservation groups mobilized hundreds of chefs and consumers to boycott swordfish while advocating for better management practices.
What You Can Do
Establishing Marine Protected Areas is one of the best ways to ensure the ocean's ability to sustain life. These areas—like national parks on land—protect habitats important to maintaining a healthy ocean.