The Beacon

Blog Tags: Fishing

Friday Infographic: What is Trawling?

This is part of a series of ocean infographics by artist Don Foley. These infographics also appear in Oceana board member Ted Danson’s book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”  

Bottom trawls, enormous fishing nets that are dragged across the sea floor, clear-cut everything living in their path. The mouths of the largest nets are big enough to swallow a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, and trawls and dredges can destroy century-old coral reefs in mere moments.

Infographic by Don Foley

How Extensive is the Damage? (Fig. A)

• The largest deep-sea bottom trawling ships—“supertrawlers” —are 450 feet or longer (the length of 1.5 football fields).

• A large trawler can drag over a half-acre swath of seabed with one pass.

• High-seas bottom trawlers destroy 580 square miles of seabed each day.

• Each year, the world’s fleet of bottom trawlers disturbs a seabed area twice the size of the contiguous United States.

• Deep-sea trawling destroys seabed habitat at a faster rate than the aggregate loss of the world’s tropical rain forests.

• European scientists have calculated that bottom-dragging trawlers in the North Sea destroy 16 pounds of marine animals for every pound of marketable sole that is caught.

Trawler Doors (Fig. B)

Heavy doors keep the mouth of the net open and on the seafloor. Rubber and steel rockhoppers roll across the seafloor, while floats lift open the net above them.


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Victory: Court Rules in Favor of Oceana on Bycatch

© Oceana/ Jesus Renedo

Great news for the oceans: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled in favor of Oceana in a suit that will require commercial fisheries from North Carolina to the Canadian border to monitor and report the amount of bycatch, or untargeted marine life, they discard.

This victory may seem like a small step, but it is a triumph against one of the biggest problems facing our oceans today. Bycatch is a major player in the destruction of marine ecosystems, and occurs when fishing gear indiscriminately traps marine life in nets, trawls, and fishing lines.

Tons of fish are wasted and thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks and sea birds are injured or killed every year as bycatch. While the new law does not place limits on bycatch, it represents a crucial and long-awaited step in increasing the transparency in commercial fishing.

“For more than 15 years NMFS has violated the law, managing America’s fisheries without reliable information about how much fish and other marine wildlife is being shoveled over the side of boats, often dead or dying,” said Gilbert Brogan, northeast representative for Oceana. “This ruling is a significant step towards improving the management of U.S. fisheries in the Atlantic.”

Congratulations to everyone who helped win this victory for more abundant oceans!


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Paul Greenberg: Uniting the Fishies and Foodies

The new issue of the Oceana magazine features a Q&A with author Paul Greenberg, whose book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, has won praise from conservationists and foodies alike. Greenberg also wrote several guest blogs posts for us in the fall. Needless to say, we are big fans. You'll see why:

Why salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna?

Salmon, usually farmed Atlantic salmon, is like the corn of the sea, grown on every continent now, save Antarctica, even though it historically never lived south of the equator.

Sea bass, that catch-all name that describes so many fish, has become the market niche of the white, meaty fish.  The name "bass" itself is a cover for a troubling fish swapping game where we progressively replace depleted species with new ones and give them the same name so that consumers don't notice the swap.

Similarly, cod represents an even more massive example of fish swapping. Only with cod, you're talking about the swapping of literally billions of pounds of fish for a whole array of both farmed and wild fish that fill a similar flesh niche.


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A History of Hooligan: An Iconic and Threatened Fish

Eulachon [yoo-luh-kon] is the official name for a fish that also goes by many others – smelt, ooligan or hooligan, and candlefish, to name a few – and has played a large role in the diets, culture and commerce of the people of the Pacific Northwest since long before Lewis and Clark first arrived. And they are increasingly threatened, which is why they need your help.

But first, let me give you a little background on this iconic fish. In 1806, Meriwether Lewis not only referenced and sketched this small fish in his journal, but went on to praise its deliciousness: “They are so fat they require no additional sauce, and I think them superior to any fish I ever tasted, even more delicate and luscious than the white fish of the lakes which have heretofore formed my standard of excellence among the fishes.” 

The scientific name for eulachon, Thaleichthys pacificus, means roughly “oily fish of the Pacific,” and it is indeed their oily nature which has made them so famous. Eulachon oil was such an important trade item for tribes that the trade routes became known as “grease trails”. The name “candlefish” also stems from this quality - if dried and strung on a wick, the fish can actually be burned as a candle.


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Turkey to Eliminate Driftnets in 2011

© Oceana/Carlos Suarez

About a month after Morocco announced it would ban illegal driftnets in the Mediterranean, Turkey has followed suit, announcing it will stop using the destructive fishing gear next year.

The decision follows intense campaigning by our European colleagues, who estimate that more than 500 vessels have been operating illegally in the Mediterranean, some with nets up to 12 miles long. It’s estimated that thousands of creatures, including whales, dolphins, sharks and sea turtles, are trapped by the indiscriminate fishing gear each year.


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Morocco Bans Driftnets

© Oceana/Carlos Suarez

Great news in the battle against illegal fishing: Morocco has passed an amendment banning the use, possession, manufacture or sale of driftnets.

Known as “curtains of death,” driftnets are a type of illegal fishing gear that can be nearly 100 feet high and 12 miles long. Because they are so passive and indiscriminate, driftnets snag whatever’s in their path, including many marine mammals and other endangered species.

The UN passed an international moratorium on driftnets 15 years ago, and the EU instituted a ban seven years ago, but many French, Italian and Moroccan vessels have continued using them.


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Oil Spill Messes With Texas

© Kris Krug via Flickr

Well, it’s official: oil has now made land in every Gulf Coast state.

With the sight of oil on a Texas beach, it’s clear that this spill is a full-out assault on the Gulf Coast.

And the news just keeps getting grimmer in Louisiana. Over the weekend, tar balls were sighted in Lake Pontchartrain, which borders New Orleans. That spells trouble for the region’s remaining working fishermen, many of whom have taken their boats to the lake since fishing in the Gulf came to a halt.

More than 115,000 people have signed our petition to stop offshore drilling. Will you?


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A 'Category 10' Disaster

Last week I met Cherie Pete, who operates a mom-and-pop style sandwich shop called Maw’s in the marshy lowlands of Boothville, LA – about two hours south of New Orleans.

Normally recreational fishermen stop by her shop to fuel up before deep-sea fishing trips in the Gulf. But with fishing restricted in most federal waters off the coast of southern Louisiana, Pete’s clientele base has disappeared.

“Normally we’d be swamped at this time,” she told me. Instead, the shopfront was nearly empty with only a few customers trickling by to purchase a cool drink in the 100-degree heat (including Brian Williams of NBC News who made a stopover with his camera crew.)


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New Orleans Residents Find Solidarity at Oil Spill Teach-in

Emily Peterson, a southern Louisiana native and Foundations Associate here at Oceana, has been in Louisiana witnessing the effects of the oil spill. She sent us this dispatch from a teach-in she attended.

Yesterday evening a crowd of New Orleans residents attended a teach-in to discuss the oil spill tragedy unfolding in our backyard on the Gulf. The event offered residents an opportunity to learn the facts and ask questions in a non-politicized environment, and to build a sense of solidarity to cope with this unprecedented environmental and cultural tragedy.


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Bills, Boat Payments Pile Up for Louisiana Fishermen

Image courtesy Emily Peterson.

We received the following dispatch from Carter Lavin, an Oceana supporter, environmental activist and energy-issue blogger, about his experience volunteering in the gulf. You can read more from him here.

Two weeks ago I had this idea that I would fly down to New Orleans and sign up to help clean up oil from the beaches of southern Louisiana. I would then catch one of the dozens of buses that were going from Jackson Square to the beaches for the clean up along with hundreds of other volunteers. We would spend the whole day there, clean up the beach, rescue a pelican or two and then head home.

I learned a few things about the clean up effort rather quickly. I learned that southern Louisiana does not really have beaches to clean; it’s nearly all marshlands. This means most clean up efforts have to be done from a boat, or the places are only boat accessible. Plus, you need to be certified to clean up hazardous materials, which requires 40 hours of training.


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