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LCA review of fishing methods

Published on March 21, 2022

A fundamental need in life is eating; what we cook, eat, and snack on is often a result of many different factors. If we are privileged enough to be picky about what we eat, we must consider where our food is sourced. Consider for a minute seafood: over 3 billion people rely on seafood for about 20% of their animal protein intake (Thin Lei Win, 2018). The future sustainability of seafood is a significant concern with the increase of the population expected by 2050.

Currently, wild-caught seafood is fished with many different methods that usually fall into two categories: active and passive fishing. Active fishing includes fishing methods like Bottom Trawl (Demersal Trawl), Longline, Pelagic Trawl, Dredging, Handline, Spearfishing, etc. In fishing, a significant issue can be bycatch, the unintended victim of the fishing process. Bycatch can result in overfishing, accidental deaths of protected species, the discarded fishes can be dead, causing a reduction in the reproducing population, and slow done the efforts to rebuild the fish stocks.

The sustainability of some active fishing systems is much better than others. For example, spearfishing is considered a more sustainable system because it targets one fish at a time and causes very little bycatch. Whereas bottom trawling is considered environmentally disastrous. There can be a large amount of bycatch with bottom trawling, and the seafloor is often left damaged (An Introduction to Fishing Methods, 2020).

Passive Fishing methods are hooks & lines, trap & pots (Creel), fixed Gill net, the Fish trap system , etc. These systems are usually more efficient in reducing the amount of bycatch, but they are not perfect. These systems are often made to be indestructible, but this causes an issue for the marine critters to escape. Fixed Gill nets can be constructed to have a specific size net opening to allow the smaller fish to swim free but keep more prominent, more desirable fish caught. These nets will cause an issue for more extensive and odd-shaped fishes, like stingrays, sharks, seals, and dolphins. The sea animals in these nets is often reeled in when they are still alive, allowing the bycatch to be returned to the sea alive.

There is currently no perfect fishing system; both Active and Passive fishing systems have their benefits and issues. It has been shown in previous LCA research that Passive fishing systems are generally more sustainable than Active fishing methods. Passive fishing methods have been shown to cause minor damage to the seafloor, produce less bycatch, and utilize less fuel (Kurniawati, 2019). If you can pick a seafood product based on the fishing method, choose one caught with a Passive fishing method, preferably. If you would like to see how seafood is acquired over the globe, click here. If you would like to see the global seafood industries' impact on the world's marine ecosystems, click here..