By Emily Hart
In the last week of sailing school, we explored different fishing strategies and their effects on fish populations. We had a great time playing games! For example, to investigate hook and line fishing (pole fishing) our “fisherman” threw a very soft ball into a sea of students who were either tuna, turtles or dolphins. We also investigated gillnetting, long-lining and bottom trawling through different simulations with ropes and beads.
We explored the concept of bycatch through these games, which is unwanted fish or other marine creatures that are unintentionally caught during fishing. The bycatch issue was first brought to light in the 1960s when high numbers of dolphins began to be caught in tuna nets. A successful campaign ensued and most canned tuna in stores is now “dolphin safe”. More recently, bottom trawling for shrimp has extremely high bycatch rates, with the highest found to be 20 bycatch organisms for every one shrimp. We kept track of our bycatch rates during our fishing simulations and found that hook and line fishing has the lowest rates of bycatch, in comparison to gillnetting, long-lining and trawling.
At the end of our sessions, I talked with the students about choosing sustainable seafood. Each student received a copy of the Seafood Watch guide produced by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to help them and their families make seafood choices. Check out the website, print out a pocket guide or download their free app: http://www.seafoodwatch.org. The New England Aquarium also has excellent programs in fisheries conservation and bycatch, check them out: http://www.neaq.org/conservation_and_research/projects/fisheries_bycatch_aquaculture/bycatch/index.php.