Introducing guest contributor Jessica Tengvall
Hi, I am Jessica! I am dedicated to the marine underwater life. The past six years I have been studying to become a marine biologist and communicator. In 2018 I have spent six months working with fisheries and fish ecology for the organisation 'Marine Conservation Philippines'. This year (2019) I will move to Norway to start my PhD on sustainable harvesting of marine fish working for the University of Bergen. I enjoy scuba diving and have dived at several locations around the world. This year my goal is to learn to read waves and get into surfing.
As you probably have heard a million times – fish stocks are declining, but the demand for fish is increasing. But what you might not have heard is that every year, 30 million tons of fish are discarded. This wasteful practice is a problem that stems from regulations and economics. The ocean does not have unlimited resources for us to waste.
Approximately 23% of worldwide catches are thrown overboard every year. Due to the stress of being caught and thrown back out, most fish thrown overboard do not survive. In addition, many individuals are killed in the fishing process and are dead even before they can be sorted by the fishermen. Discarding is not only unsustainable but also an unethical approach of handling alive fish.
So why do we discard fish?
Discarding occurs mainly due to regulatory factors and economic factors. In many places fishermen are under quotas, which regulates the amount and types of species they are allowed to catch. There may also be restrictions on proportions of species and sizes. This means, when fishermen catch a species that is not in their quota allowance, or too big or too small, they discard it.
Discards also happen purely as a consequence of market value, such as when a fish is damaged, lowering its value, or the species has a low or no market value to begin with. Fishermen discard these low-value catches to make space for more valuable catch.
What is being done to overcome discarding?
This year (2019) discard should become minimised in Europe. A new ‘landing obligation’ has been declared in the EU. This means that fishermen will have to bring everything they catch back to shore. Their whole catch will be counted against quotas.
Much of the non-marketable seafood will, instead of being eaten, be used as fish oil, pet food, in pharmaceutics or as food additives. In some cases, it can also lead to new species on markets, where seafood can be sold for food but has a low market value because there is little demand. As consumers we can be supportive of reducing seafood waste by being open to buying these new species for our dining tables. Not only will this be a new and exciting option for you to try, but will most likely be a cheaper seafood option.
New innovative fishing gears may also help combat discarding. Fishing gears are being designed to be more selective, allowing fishermen to more easily target what they want to catch and avoid what they don’t want to catch. Using more selective gears are not only a way to fish more sustainably, but also reduces time wasted on sorting and discarding unwanted fish. So many fishermen across Europe are willing to invest in more selective gears.
Hopefully we will see less wasted fish in the world the coming years with new and more effective regulations and innovative fishing gear.
If you are interested in getting some insight on the innovative gear, you can watch the TV series Ocean, which is produced by a Euronews team that joined fishermen and researchers in Sweden and France.