Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery Number 3 of “9 Dirtiest U.S. Fisheries”

The ocean conservation and advocacy group Oceana brought to light some of the devastating effects of shrimp trawling in their recent “Wasted Catch” report. Utilizing data from the National Marine Fisheries Service’s first “National Bycatch Report,” the group researched annual bycatch levels to determine the “9 dirtiest U.S. fisheries.” Shrimp trawling, particularly in the Southeastern United States, was named number 3 on the list, with discarded bycatch amounting to over half of their annual catch totals.

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Bycatch refers to additional marine animals (not the targeted harvest species) like tropical fish, sharks, and starfish, which become entrapped in commercial fishing or shrimping nets, sustaining injuries and potentially drowning. “Trawlers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic for brown and pink shrimp have some of the highest discard rates of all U.S. fisheries,” the report stated. Just 11,000 shrimping vessels discard 229 million pounds of bycatch annually, a whopping 64% of their total catch.

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Southeast shrimp trawlers are also responsible for the death of an estimated 50,000 sea turtles annually. Of the 5 species of sea turtles found in the area, 100% are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Bycatch from shrimp trawling further impacts other commercial fisheries by reducing their targeted fish populations. Juvenile species and tropical fish populations are reduced as well, effecting important recreational industries. Shrimp trawling utilizes “nets as wide as football fields” which drag along the ocean floor, further damaging coral reefs and harming important marine ecosystems.

Of the negative impacts already associated with shrimp trawling, many more may go undetected. The report explained that “observer coverage has historically been low or nonexistent, making it impossible to accurately document what is caught and discarded.” Such negative effects continue even as “catch and income [from shrimping fisheries] have declined in recent years,” clearly calling for a long-term solution.

Thankfully, interest in land-based aquaculture and sustainable shrimp farming is on the rise. Through continued research into aquaculture practices and technologies we are continually improving processes. We are now discovering environmentally-friendly, long-term solutions, like Florida Organic Aquaculture’s advanced closed-loop recirculating water system.

Rather than depleting our natural resources and harming precious environmental ecosystems, we can support and encourage sustainable food growers to produce natural, healthy products that are beneficial to our families and our planet.

View Oceana’s “Wasted Catch” report here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/213365414/Oceana-Bycatch-Report.