Goodbye to bycatch


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You may not believe me, but I dislike always being the bearer of bad news; it seems like I’m constantly telling you horror stories and asking you to make tough choices about fish and seafood. Regrettably, today is no exception.

By now most people are aware that making a choice at the fish and seafood counter is much more complicated than deciding what you’d like to eat for dinner. From aquaculture controversies to concerns about certain species becoming extinct, there is a lot to consider before you make a final choice.

And, more confusingly still, while some fish are plentiful and still live up to the adage that there are plenty of fish in the sea, the way that they are caught is harmful to other species. Such is the case with monkfish, a delicious white fish that is caught using bottom trawling (a method that can damage seafloor habitat and often results in high bycatch) or gillnets (which can result in the accidental bycatch and death of sea turtles and other marine mammals).

What’s bycatch you ask? It’s the unintentional harvest of sea, lake or river life, which was not the intended harvest species that results when nets are cast into the water. In some cases, bycatch can be sold as food which is fine if the species involved aren’t endangered or vulnerable; however, often fishermen discard their bycatch which is a terrible waste whether the species involved are vulnerable or not. In fact, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, one in four of all animals caught in as bycatch is discarded.

So, before you make that final purchase choice next time you’re buying fish and seafood, ask the fishmonger about the bycatch associated with your choice. And, if he doesn’t know what the heck you’re talking about, send him here so that he can click on these links to find out more:

Before today, were you aware of the bycatch issue? If so, has it influenced your shopping and restaurant choices?


3 Responses to Goodbye to bycatch

  1. Taras Grescoe’s Bottomfeeder influenced my trips to the seafood counter. He addresses bycatch and many more issues that are far more serious (if you can believe it!) I now have an Ocean Wise wallet card and rarely eat fish in restaurants.

    It all sounds so virtuous of me, but since my husband doesn’t eat fish or seafood it’s not a huge inconvenience to pull out the card on the rare occasion I want fish/seafood.

    Thanks for bringing these important issues to people’s attention.

  2. Those wallet cards from Monterey Bay Aquarium and Ocean Wise are great. They’re also available as iPhone apps, which I find even more convenient because they give more information.

    End of the Line by Charles Clover is another great book. It’s more European in focus, and was recently made into a movie. I ahven’t seen any Canadian screening dates though.

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