In the Mediterranean, around 300 species are fished. Of these, only 10% is marketed on a regular basis while 30% is sold sporadically, in response to the needs of the market. The other 60%, called bycatch, is cast back into the sea, as the fishers are all too aware that it is not sellable. These are commonly lesser-known species or those less popular with consumers. In taking steps towards sustainable fishing we must urgently reduce bycatch.
Bycatch includes fish that are both commercially viable and non-viable, and sometimes even includes rare, threatened or protected species. At times, when catch exceeds demand, commercially viable fish are thrown back into the sea, thereby guaranteeing stable prices for commercial fishers.
Bycatch is a grave waste of resources and it must be reduced through more streamlined management measures. Examples of these are better selectivity tools, spatio-temporal restrictions to safeguard fish of particular sizes and areas that are vulnerable, and also more informed consumer choices.
Here are some simple measures through which everyone can contribute:
1) Vary your diet, opting for fish from markets instead of planning and expecting to buy a specific species without knowing what the sea was offering on that particular day;
2) Favor fish that is and fresh local: this avoids the need for long distance transportation, limiting economic costs and the environmental impact;
3) Favor fish caught with environmentally sound fishing methods, avoiding fish products that have been sought through high impact activities or from prohibited areas;
4) Fish is seasonal too: consume according to the season and size of fish, as minimum size requirements are in place to allow fish stocks to grow and reproduce adequately.
The future involves everyone; not only those within the sector, politicians and directors, but also, and most importantly, citizens and consumers are invited to play an active and responsible role. We have to make ourselves aware of the enormous consequences that our daily choices have on the future of our resources and the marine environment.
Angelo Cau Biologist, University of Cagliari
Orignally published on the Slow Fish event website