Fisheries Dump Millions of Pounds of Seafood Back into the Ocean Each Year

Mar 24, 2014 08:36 AM EDT | By Staff Writer

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Fisheries in the U.S. aren't the cleanest in the world. In fact, a new report by an ocean conservation group has shown that they toss about one-fifth of their catch back into the water. This average totals up to a staggering 22 percent, which means about 2 billion pounds of fish is wasted each year.

The main issue is bycatch, which are non-target fish that are captured in nets or other equipment. It's difficult to actually only target a specific species, so when fishermen catch other species that are either unmarketable or illegal to have, they throw them back into the ocean. Unfortunately, many of these undesirable species are already dead once they're thrown back. It's estimated that the global bycatch could be as much as 63 billion pounds per year, according to Oceana's new report. Needless to say, this can greatly impact oceanic ecosystem and, over time, also affect fisheries.

The new report by Oceana, the ocean conservation group, actually identifies the nine dirtiest fisheries across the country. These "dirty" fisheries use fishing methods that are more harmful than others, which can increase bycatch. The worst offenders were the California set gillnet fishery and the California drift gillnet fishery. Other offenders included the southeast snapper-grouper longline fishery and the southeast shrimp trawl fishery in addition to the Alaska flatfish trawl fishery and the northeast bottom trawl fishery, according to The Oregonian.

So what can be done? That's a good question. Choosing fish from sources that are less harmful to the environment can encourage fisheries to enact stricter practices that might be better for the ecosystem. Existing guides can allow you to better choose what to eat. There's even a downloadable app for your iPhone or Android that allows you to choose the best fish to consume while you're on the go.

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