The Cruel Business of Commercial Fishing


Commercial Fishing is one of the world’s largest industries by revenue. Its primary purpose is to capture and sell fish that can be eaten by humans or used as bait. Unlike most other sectors, this industry prioritizes size and quantity over animal welfare.

Commercial fishing is an unholy industry that takes hundreds of billions of animals each year. It poses the greatest danger to our ocean ecosystems, degrading habitats and wiping out entire species.

Commercial fishing is typically done by large ships equipped with sophisticated electronics that monitor and measure fish as they come aboard. These gigantic vessels can remain out at sea for months at a time, storing thousands of tons of catch in massive freezer compartments on board.

Trawls, nets and other fishing methods are employed to capture fish from all depths of the sea and on land. Trawls can dredge and trap bottom-living species like cod, haddock, hake, pollock, flatfish and herring; these vessels may be operated via sail, wind or steam power.

Their fishing gears are tailored to the species they’re targeting and can be quite heavy. The most popular type of trawls are bottom trawls, which dredge the seafloor before dragging their net underneath fish.

The other type of fishing net is deep-sea trawls, which dredge and capture fish living beneath the surface. They may also be utilized to capture pelagic species like swordfish and tuna.

These methods can be particularly cruel to cold-blooded animals, who are often left to succumb from suffocation or bleeding out after being captured. It may take them hours or days before they succumb from their injuries.

Other methods of fishing involve traps and pots that are baited to attract marine animals like lobsters, crabs, shrimp, sablefish or Pacific cod. Once submerged underwater, these devices wait for fishermen to return with their catch.

Depending on their species, fish can be frozen, stored or slaughtered while onboard the vessel. Some may even be sent to restaurants or processed on site for human consumption.

In the United States, commercial fishing accounts for 15% of seafood production and is managed by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). Furthermore, the U.S. Navy oversees commercial fishing in the Atlantic Ocean within its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Some RFMOs regulate specific fish species, such as salmon and tuna, that are essential to their members’ economies. Furthermore, they monitor illegal and unreported fishing in non-EEZ regions like the Gulf of Mexico or Indian Ocean.

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Bycatch is a major issue in commercial fishing, particularly when targeting pelagic and demersal species. Bycatch refers to fish that are unfit for human consumption or that become prey to predators such as sharks and whales.

Bycatch is the term for non-target fish such as sea turtles, birds and seals that are caught while being hooked by longlines. These non-target species are considered “bycatch” and usually thrown overboard when hooked.

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