commercial fishing

Commercial fishing brings with it huge environmental impacts, as well as the pain and distress caused to the fish themselves.

Here are just a few of the problems associated with commercial fishing:

Bottom-Trawling Nets

Bottom trawling means trawling fishing nets along the sea floor, it is also known as ‘dragging’.

In 2006, the UN Secretary General reported that 95 percent of damage to seamount ecosystems worldwide was caused by deep sea bottom trawling (source: Wikipedia).

This type of fishing has been carried out for over a century in areas such as the North Sea and Grand Banks – areas which are very heavily fished. The damage that this type of fishing inflicts on seabeds is a relatively recent concern, in particular the damage it causes to the slow growing, deep water coral Lophelia pertusa, which is easily damaged.

Gill Nets and Ghost Fishing

The incidental catch of turtles, sharks, whales (including endangered sperm whales) and other marine life from the use of gill nets is a growing concern, as is that of ‘ghost fishing’.

Derelict fishing gear, sometimes referred to as “ghost gear,” is any discarded, lost, or abandoned, fishing gear in the environment. This gear continues to fish and trap animals, entangle and potentially kill marine life, smother habitat, and act as a hazard to navigation. Derelict fishing gear, such as nets or traps and pots, is one of the main types of debris impacting the marine environment today.

commercial fishing bycatch

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“Imagine being trapped 100 feet underwater in a massive net, struggling to reach the surface and unable to breathe. This fate is what awaits hundreds of marine mammals, including endangered sperm whales, and other ocean life in waters off of California. What’s more, the government is allowing the drift gillnet swordfish fishery to continue operating in clear violation of federal law, without adequate protections in place for sperm whales and other species.

Fishermen use mile-long drift gillnets to catch swordfish and thresher sharks in waters off of California. Floating beneath the surface, these nets soak through the night, catching open-ocean animals that swim into them. Nicknamed “walls of death” in the conservation community, drift gillnets entangle roughly 100 marine mammals every year, along with sea turtles, thousands of sharks, and other economically important fish. In 2011, for every five swordfish the fishery landed, one marine mammal was killed and six fish — including sharks and tunas — were tossed overboard dead or dying.

Last year, Oceana discovered that as many as 16 sperm whales were injured and killed by the drift gillnet swordfish fishery in 2010, a number that prevents the these whales from reaching or maintaining their optimum sustainable population.”


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Over Fishing

Globally fishing fleets are at least two to three times as large as needed to take present day catches of fish and other marine species.

These figures were published in 2006 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, however the situation is now most certainly a whole lot worse:

52% of fish stocks are fully exploited
20% are moderately exploited
17% are overexploited
7% are depleted
1% is recovering from depletion

Worldwide about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone.


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