Initial Publication Date: August 12, 2008

Are You Going to Eat That?

Part A: Irresponsible Fishing Practices

Several types of irresponsible fishing practices contribute to the threat against sustainable seafood. In order to meet consumer demands, the fishing industry sometimes uses techniques that are harmful to fisheries and marine ecosystems. However, conscientious seafood consumers can help to change this. Slight changes in seafood purchasing habits can make an enormous impact on the effort to curb losses in marine biodiversity and to increase seafood sustainability.

Fishing Gear & Methods

1. To learn about fishing methods currently in use by commercial fisheries, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium's website on Fishing & Farming Methods. Read the Fishing Methods section to learn more about some different ways fish and seafood are trapped and caught.

2. To get a sense of how the methods of fishing have changed over time, visit the Sea Around Us site and examine the graph of Catches by Gear in the Global Ocean from 1950 to 2014. Move your cursor over the graph to view the yearly values of metric tons of fish caught by various types of gear.

Checking In

Answer the following questions about the information provided in the Catches by Gear graph.

  • What methods of fishing caught the most and least tons of fish in 1950?
  • How many years did it take before small scale fishing was not consistently the catching the most fish after 1950?


When fishermen catch fish and other animals they do not want, can't sell, or aren't allowed to keep, we call this bycatch. This contributes to overfishing.

3. Watch this video to learn more about bycatch:

from PEW. What is Bycatch

Reducing Bycatch

There are many ways that different types of fishing and gear can increase the chances of bycatch, but there are also ways that both can be adapted to reduce bycatch.

4. Use the following videos and readings to learn about several methods in use or being developed:


Turtle Excluder Devices
Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs)

Selective Nets

Adaptations to avoid Seabird Bycatch

Saving Albatrosses from Birdlife International
Simple Fixes to Gear to Save Seabirds from Becoming Bycatch

Checking In

  • How does a TED device trawl net operate similarly to the separator device for the groundfish trawl net to ensure the turtles or cod aren't captured? How do the trawl net devices operate differently?
  • What are some of the recommended changes to protect sea birds?

IUU - Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated Fishing

Although not much in the news, IUU is a global problem.

5. Read NOAA's page on Understanding Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing.

There are many ways that fisheries and law-enforcement around the world have tried to crack down on illegal fishing.

6. Read about this new one involving the use of Albatross Wearing Data Trackers.

Checking In

  • Why are developing countries considered the most affected by IUU?
  • What makes albatrosses good birds for tracking fishing vessels?
  • Optional Extensions

    The Lure of Flotsam video from PEW about FADs & tuna fishing

    What is FAD free tuna?

    Additional FAD Management Measures Needed in International Fisheries

    Tackling Bycatch in U.S. Fisheries video

    Longline Fishing's Unintended Victims: Billfish, Sharks, & Tuna

    Exploring Solutions for Sea Turtle Bycatch podcast

    Unexpected Catch: Seabirds & Fisheries

    Protecting Tuna Stocks video

    World Wildlife Fund: About Illegal Fishing

    Using Tech to Protect the Seas video

    Scientists uncover illegal fishing using shark tracking devices

    Tracing Fish to Its Source

    How Patagonian Toothfish was Saved

    Other Unsustainable Fishing Practices

    Wasteful Fishing- 10 Million Tonnes of Fish Wasted Yearly

    Unfair Fishing - Taking Advantage of Developing Countries' Fisheries

    Destructive Fishing - What is Destructive Fishing?

    How Fishers Abandon Destructive Fishing