Each year, U.S. commercial fishing operations throw away at sea more than one million metric tons of fish, an amount equivalent to 28% of all commercial landings (fish brought ashore) and more than all of the fish landed on the East and West coasts combined. These unwanted fish are known as bycatch and are dumped overboard, often already dead.
This is one of many startling statistics presented in a study commissioned by Oceana, Wasted Resources: Bycatch and Discards in U.S. Fisheries. This report, based on bycatch data collected by government fisheries observers, was conducted by leading marine researchers Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, a member of the U.S. commission on Ocean Policy, and Dr. Ransom A. Myers, who was named in Fortune magazine as one of the world's top ten people to watch, as well as Jennie Harrington of Marine Resources Assessment Group. This is the first and only comprehensive review of dirty fishing in American fisheries and it is being published in the December issue of the scientific journal Fish and Fisheries.
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When commercial fishing boats go out into the ocean searching for a specific fish - like tuna or cod - their goal is to catch as many of them as they can. In the process, they not only catch their intended fish, but also other fish which they do not want or, by law, they cannot keep.
At Oceana we have an entire campaign - our Stop Dirty Fishing Campaign - dedicated to this issue because we know it is a serious problem. But until this past week we could not put a number to the amount of "dirty fishing" going on in U.S. fisheries.
This study clearly demonstrates that the United States is as bad as - or worse than - the rest of the world's top fishing nations when it comes to waste.
This new information not only benefits Oceana's work, but also serves as a resource for everyone involved with or concerned about U.S. fisheries. The data puts us all on notice that much more needs to be done to actually reduce bycatch in the U.S., and gives us a baseline for measuring our success.