Trawl fishing

The words “fishing” and “overfishing” occur frequently in the literature dealing with the marine ecosystem. They are presumed to have two different meanings, perhaps even being opposites of a sort. The underlying assumption seems to be that “fishing” is OK, and is not inherently harmful to the environment, as long as it is carried out at the appropriate “level” or intensity. Fisheries managers look at the data on each species, do a series of calculations, and theoretically come up with a number (“quota” or “allowable catch”) of fish that can be caught without doing damage to the stock, or in other words be “SUSTAINABLE.” The problem is that this approach has never worked. Stocks have been “managed” in this way for years, and still persist in their declining trends. Efforts continue to be made to discover where to draw the line, but the “sustainable” fishing level still eludes us. That is because “fishing” is not “sustainable” unless a way is found to replace the organic material that is removed from the system. As it is done today, “fishing” is exactly the same thing as “overfishing.” That is, all fishing contributes to the further depletion of the overall system.

Much has been written about the changes in the fishing industry in recent years. There have been many articles in newspapers and magazines, and many books written on the subject. From what I have seen, all seem to blame the trouble on “overfishing.” But what if “fishing” = ”overfishing”? There is no real difference. A typical summary of fishing in this century can be found in articles such as “THE GLOBAL FISHERIES CRISIS” (
http://www.greenpeace.org/~comms/cbio/global.html) In this article the observation is made that, despite increased fishing “effort”, the world’s annual catch of fish has been dropping since 1989. “Many argue that this decrease is an indication that fishing has overstepped nature’s limits.” I believe that “nature’s limits” were overstepped LONG before 1989 - we just did not realize it because our technological advances made it possible to continually catch more and more fish...

"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."
- Albert Einstein

illustration above and bottom trawl fishing photo at top of page from NOAA

      Home            About          What's New         Article Index        Contact