A decades-long review of fishing practices concluded that 10 percent of all the fish that are caught worldwide are thrown back into the ocean. This amounted to around 10 million tons of fish — which are either dead or dying — being discarded due to poor fishing practices and improper management. A group of 300 experts with Sea Around Us, an initiative by the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the University of Western Australia, said that this was equivalent to filling around 4,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools with fish every year.
Dirk Zeller, who was the lead author of the study, wrote on ScienceDaily.com, “In the current era of increasing food insecurity and human nutritional health concerns, these findings are important. The discarded fish could have been put to better use.” Unmarketable fish are typically thrown back into the ocean. These fish are normally ones that are too small or part of an unwanted species. Sometimes, as with the Alaska pollock, fishermen only need a specific part of the fish (in this case, the roe). After they had harvested the intended part, the fish are discarded as well.
Zeller added: “Discards also happen because of a nasty practice known as high-grading where fishers continue fishing even after they’ve caught fish that they can sell. If they catch bigger fish, they throw away the smaller ones; they usually can’t keep both loads because they run out of freezer space or go over their quota.” Researchers of the study noted that during the 1950s, only five million tons of fish were thrown back. This number rose dramatically during the 1980s where around 18 million tons were discarded. These figures somewhat stabilized to its current levels of 10 millions tons per year over the last decade. The decrease, some authorities say, can be attributed to improved fishing technologies and better management practices. However, Zeller remained skeptical, pointing out that these figures could also be an indicator of depleting fish stocks. He referred to a 2016 paper by Sea Around Us which depicted the dwindling catch rates, a figure which has seen a decline of 1.2 million tons of fish every year since