EarthLabs > Fisheries > Lab 2: Are You Going to Eat That? > 2A: Irresponsible Fishing Practices

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.

  1. Watch the video The end of fish?, in which Brian Halweil, a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, provides tips about responsible seafood consumption.

    Checking In

    Answer the following question to check your understanding of the information provided in the video.

    • Why should you choose smaller fish when eating seafood?
      Smaller fish are better to eat because they are more sustainable. Smaller fish are lower on the food chain; are more numerous; and reproduce faster. Smaller fish are also healthier than large fish because they are lower in fat and Mercury concentrations.
    WWF Interactive Seafood Menu
    Menu courtesy of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
  2. Peruse the Fish Dish Menu to take a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of some of the irresponsible fishing practices that put food on your plate.
    • NOTE: While the information presented in the menu is factual, be aware that the message is an emotional one and intended to be somewhat shocking.
    • Click on "Vocabulary Help" below for definitions of a few new terms you will encounter in the menu. As you read the menu, keep track of any other unfamiliar words you come across. Look up their meanings in the Fisheries Glossary, in a dictionary, or by doing an Internet search.

    method of fishing that involves actively pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats, called trawlers.
    bottom trawling
    fishing method that involves towing trawl nets along the sea floor.
    beam trawling
    the simplest method of bottom trawling in which the mouth of the net is held open by a solid metal beam. The beam is attached to two "shoes" (solid metal plates), that are welded to the ends of the beam, and slide over and disturb the seabed. This method is mainly used on smaller vessels, fishing for flatfish or prawns, relatively close inshore.

    Checking In

    Answer the following questions about the information provided in the Fish Dish Menu.

    • What types of irresponsible fishing practices were identified in the menu?
      • overfishing: fish are caught beyond sustainable limits
      • illegal fishing: includes unregulated or unreported fishing
      • wasteful fishing: a significant portion of the catch is thrown overboard, dead
      • indiscriminate fishing/by-catch: non-target species such as dolphins or turtles are caught and killed while fishing for other species
      • destructive fishing: practices like bottom trawling destroy the ocean floor
      • unfair fishing: foreign commercial fishing in depleted waters near communities that fear food shortages and social disaster
    • Have you ever eaten any of the types of fish on the menu?