Aquatic ecosystems are home to different fish species. In fact, millions of people depend on them for food and livelihood. But, in recent years, there has been an increase in seafood demand. This is mainly due to the rising human population and advancements in fishing technology.

Sadly, however, this has led to overfishing, thus putting fish stocks and the people who depend on them at risk. And since fishing is an important food source, we must use sustainable fishing practices to save our aquatic ecosystems.

One thing for sure is that sustainable fishing practices will help protect our fish stocks. On top of that, they are also crucial in protecting our marine ecosystems.

Bigeye tuna fishing
Bigeye tuna fishing

Sustainable fishing practices protect our oceans and ensure that fish populations continue to thrive in the future.

Here are some general principles that can guide fishermen and fisheries managers toward more sustainable practices.

Use of Selective Fishing Gears

The type of fishing gear used greatly impacts the sustainability of the world’s fisheries. Since different fish species inhabit various areas of the water column, the fishing gear used should be well-designed for each target species.

As a result, it is recommendable to use the appropriate fishing gear. This means using gear types that target a specific species, size, or age of fish while reducing the bycatch of unwanted fish.

Some of the commonly used sustainable fishing methods are;

Hook and Line Fishing

This is one of the simplest forms of fishing. It is more species-specific and size-selective compared to other types of fishing.

Further, it is a sustainable method that allows the fisherman to release unwanted catches quickly. Generally, it consists of a fishing line with one or more baited hooks.

Hook and line fishing method
Hook and line fishing method


Trolling

Trolling is arguably one of the most sustainable fishing practices. Basically, it involves dragging a hooked line through the water column using a moving boat.

The main goal is to fool the fish that the bait is moving prey. Interestingly, trolling can be done in oceans, lakes, or rivers.

And just like hook and line, there is minimal bycatch in trolling and quick release of unwanted fish.

Harpooning

Harpooning is mainly used to catch larger fish, such as bluefin tuna and swordfish. Ideally, fishermen use either hand thrown harpoon or a spear gun with barbs. In this method, fishermen aim at specific targets and barely harvest unwanted fish.

Restricting Fishing in Certain Areas

One of the most sustainable fishing practices involves restricting fishing areas. Mainly this is to help preserve the fish population. For instance, if a fishery is close to extinction or near threatened, the best option is to give the stock enough time to rebuild.

And this is done by creating marine protected areas. During this time, the fishing area is either partially or fully closed, allowing fish stocks to recover.

Additionally, marine protected areas also help safeguard essential fish habitats. For example, seagrass provide food and shelter for a wide range of marine life.

On the other hand, mangroves also provide nursery areas for juvenile fish. Therefore, protecting these habitats is vital in rebuilding fish stocks.

Fishing at the Appropriate Time of the Year

Timing is essential when fishing sustainably. One way to help reduce the impact of overfishing is to fish during a specific time of the year. In this case, harvesting occurs when fish are most abundant. And therefore, only larger fish are targeted.

As a result, harvesting spawning and juvenile fish is minimal. That said, fishing at the appropriate time of year helps ensure that harvested fish stocks are of the required size and age.

Harvesting fish of the same size
Harvesting fish of the same size


Limiting the Number of Fish Caught

Another way to help address overfishing is to limit the number of fish caught. However, governments and fishery management authorities must set catch limit laws.

The laws are purposely to keep fishermen from harvesting too many fish at a go. And more so, enforcing size limits ensures that juvenile fish are not harvested, thus protecting fish stocks from depleting.

Therefore, setting catch limits is one of the most sustainable fishing practices.

Increasing Aquaculture Production

Aquaculture is the farming of fish and other aquatic organisms in controlled environments. In recent years, aquaculture production has significantly grown and is increasing at an impressive rate.

Aquaculture is diverse, and therefore there are different types of aquaculture systems. But the systems mainly depend on the fish species being cultured. In that case, the culture systems vary from freshwater ponds to marine cages.

Intensive marine cage farming
Intensive marine cage farming

Credit: Mohsen Taha (CC 4.0)

However, due to the rate at which wild fish stocks are depleting, it is now essential to increase aquaculture production. Aquaculture supplements seafood without putting additional pressure on wild fish stocks.

Additionally, aquaculture allows for total year-round seafood production and, therefore, one of the most sustainable fishing practices.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, fishing is an essential source of food and livelihood for many people around the world. But overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices are putting our fish stocks at risk.

However, sustainable fishing practices can conserve fish populations and protect aquatic habitats. Besides, sustainable fishing also reduces pollution and improves the quantity of fish in our oceans.

By following these practices, we can help ensure that fishing remains a viable industry for generations to come.

FAQs

What is the importance of sustainable fishing?

Sustainable fishing is important because it helps protect our aquatic resources and their inhabitants. They ensure that our aquatic ecosystems remain productive, thus guaranteeing the possibility of enough fish stocks for future generations.

What is the meaning of sustainable fishing?

Sustainable fishing is the act of fishing at a rate that does not deplete the fish population or damage the ecosystem. It involves using fishing techniques that are less harmful to fish and their habitats. It also aims at protecting fish stocks, marine habitats, and the livelihood of the people who depend on them.

What are some of the unsustainable fishing practices?

Some unsustainable fishing practices are; overfishing, bycatch, illegal fishing, and destructive fishing practices. Unfortunately, these practices lead to the decline of fish populations. Not only that, but they also damage the ecosystem, thus causing habitat loss.

Can sustainable fishing be achieved?

Yes, sustainable fishing is achievable. However, it depends on the management factors in place. In some areas, sustainable fishing is already a success. For example, the New Zealand Hoki fishery was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2012. Although sustainable fishing has not been attained in other places yet, there is still potential to do so.