For this Blog post, I will be reviewing another article from National Geographic called, “Shocking Video Shows Impacts of Controversial Fishing Method” by Sarah Gibbens. This article discusses a video that shows the gruesome effects of drift net fishing in our open waters. Drift nets or drift gillnets, are gigantic underwater nets pulled by fishing boats to catch fish for human consumption. These nets often instantly kill fish when they get stuck inside them. The main problem with this method of fishing is the amount of bycatch that it produces. Bycatch is the trapping of species that are not being fished for, and it causes severe damage to countless marine species. Since these massive nets are meant to catch large amounts of fish, the video shows marine species such as seals, birds, stingray, sharks, dolphin, and even a sunfish being caught and killed as bycatch.
The animals that are captured as bycatch in the video are all species that should not have been killed. The article says that almost 60% of the total haul in drift gillnet fishing is bycatch, and a 2016 study showed that 22 critically endangered turtles, 900 marine mammals and 26,000 sharks had all been caught as bycatch in the previous decade. These numbers are disastrous and severely impact the resilience of the countless species being affected. The end of the video shows an image of a seal that is caught in gillnets dating all the way back to 1983, showing how long this practice has been going on. If these species continue being caught and killed, they may completely go extinct. This clearly shows that this type of fishing practice needs to be stopped immediately.
The catching of many of the species found in the video are illegal, since they are endangered species; however, drift gill net fishing is still going on damaging the marine environment. In response to the video, Law Enforcement has stated that they are conducting an investigation into this problem, as this video was created to make awareness of this problem. Hopefully passing Senate Bill 1017 which would require this fishing practice to be more closely observed by NOAA officials. These observers would look for legal compliance on drift gillnet fishing boats. They would also log the amount of bycatch that the nets produce. Currently, NOAA observers are only allowed to log about 20% of all fishing bycatch.
An increase in NOAA observes will allow this fishing practice to be more closely regulated while hopefully alleviating some of the damage it causes. If SB 1017 is passed, it will hopefully pave the way towards completely abolishing drift gillnet fishing. Currently, the ocean’s biodiversity is in grave danger due to human impact. Our planets coral reefs are dying from things like global warming and pollution. This is severely lowering the abundance of species in the ocean. With the addition of fishing practices, like drift gillnet fishing, the oceans are reaching irreparable damage. In order to protect our fragile marine ecosystem, we must figure out a way to completely abolish this practice.