Industrial Fishing Videos & Reports: Bad & Good Practices & Progress Towards Solutions

Enlargeable banner logo of Space and Ocean Exploration by Danny Quintana and the Global High Seas Marine Preserve.During the writing of his latest book, Space & Ocean Exploration: The Alternative to the Military-Industrial Complex, Danny Quintana was shocked by the research he encountered which showed the dire situation the oceans are in after fifty years industrial fishing and lots of polluting.

Quintana decided that it was vital to stop industrial and commercial fishing on the high seas thru establishment of the Global High Seas Marine Preserve, which would be enforced in part by the U.S. Navy. This would be part of the diversion of defense department funding that for space and ocean exploration that makes up the primary theme of the Space & Ocean Exploration book.    

Industrial harvesting of marine life around the world is decimating stocks of large top-of-the-food-chain predators like whales, sharks and tuna which in turn hurts the ocean ecosystems they help support. If the major fisheries collapse, the ecosystems will collapse, then human societies will collapse and the result will be chaos and war. 

Wild salmon fishing, Alaska. Viking Maid

Big Catch!

Tuna Cowboys – Nat Geo Documentary

Tuna Cowboys is an award winning National Geographic documentary that ventures into the Southern Ocean to capture the first ever footage of the Southern Blue Fin Tuna muster. Produced and directed by Mike Bhana at Natural History New Zealand, Motion Pacific provided topside camera and field director services to the project.

FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations         Industrial Fisheries

Some industrial fisheries are quite easily identified. For instance, the world’s largest fishery – the Peruvian purse seine fishery for anchoveta – is one species caught mainly by one country in a specific area. However, the anchoveta do coexist with other species such as mackerel and the resource can move south into Chilean waters. The resource also has great fluctuations caused by “El Niño”, so large that they are even seen in the total world’s catch figures. The schooling characteristics of pelagic fish such as anchoveta do mean that that they are generally monospecies, which makes it more readily identified as a “fishery.”

North Sea Demersel Fishery, cod, haddock , whitingAt the other end of the scale, the North Sea demersal fishery consists of about 20 species caught by some 12 countries using a variety of fishing gears. It is possible to disaggregate this major fishery into sub-fisheries, by country, species or area or fishing gear, but none of these would be a cohesive fishery unit because other sub-fisheries would impact it. This amalgam of sub-fisheries makes these fisheries very difficult to manage. The range of different fishing methods generates conflicts among fishers, often with the most efficient gear blamed for overfishing and/or damage to the environment.

Given these two different situations, it is easy to classify up to about 70 percent of the world’s catch into around 200 fisheries. However, the remaining 30 percent is simply classified as the North Sea fishery (an Area classification) broken down into species and/or countries.

North Sea Demersal Fishing Trawler, cod, haddock, whiting.This range of fishing methods is, in many cases, a measure of the fishery’s maturity given that, as each more efficient method has been introduced, a remnant of the previous prevailing fishing method still co-exists. The wide range of target species gives rise to one of the most intractable problems of fisheries management: that of the optimum fishing effort on a multispecies fishery.

Each species has a different optimum fishing effort and the management decision on the fleet’s optimum size will be greater than the optimum for any one species. This leads to overfishing on some species and a less than optimum catch for others. Attempts to correct this maladjustment by imposing catch quotas cause overquota fish to be discarded in order to keep more of the underquota species – thus optimizing the boat’s revenue when the overall catch quota is close to being reached.  

North Sea Cod Fishing at Whitby

North Sea Cod

As a general rule, industrial fisheries are confined to the continental shelf where fish are more abundant, although there are exceptions. The fisheries for large pelagics such as tuna and swordfish are ocean-ranging using purse seines and longlines. However, the global total catch of these vessels would be only around five percent of the those vessels fishing on the continental shelf. Another group of fishing vessels presently attracting much attention target Patagonian toothfish and similar species, but again their numbers are minimal compared to the continental shelf or near coastal fisheries. One issue that is causing concern is bottom trawling in very deep water on species that are very long-lived and therefore vulnerable to overfishing. Another problem is the possible damage to sensitive areas that might prove to be irreversible. 

Soviet Fishing Trawlers engaged in industrial fishing, North Sea, 1960-1980.The most spectacular industrial fisheries were the fleets of factory vessels and factory trawlers built in the Soviet bloc between 1960-1980. These very large vessels fished all around the world and were supported by a fleet supplying fuel and provisions and transporting the catch. The largest vessels were about 8 000 GRT and more than 120 metres in length. The extension of the EEZs in the early 1980s restricted the fishing grounds that were freely available to these vessels but in many cases fishing agreements between the flag State and the coastal State allowed the vessels to continue fishing for some years.

As coastal countries developed the ability to harvest their own resources, such agreements were more difficult to negotiate and, around 1990, the building programme for these very large vessels came to an end. Although there are still some very large vessels currently being built for fishing in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, these are exceptions and the numbers are in single figures compared to the hundreds built in the 1970s and 1980s.