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The ravages of industrial fishing on ecosystems

Industrial fishing has literally invaded our oceans. At the beginning of February, a surreal photograph appeared on social networks: a boat leaving a huge school of dead fish in its wake in the middle of the ocean. Exposed in the open, here are the consequences of the aggressive and environmentally dangerous methods used by industrial fishing boats. With a total turnover of 33 billion euros and thousands of jobs, industrial fishing has not finished challenging the collective conscience. What are the ravages and what solutions are available to us to remedy it?

A surreal photograph that grabs headlines 

From a distance, we see a photo of the sea like any other, a foam effect, but up close it is a completely different phenomenon, far from natural. At the beginning of February, the Sea Shepherd association published a surreal photograph of the rejection at sea of tens of thousands of fish by the ship Margiris in the Bay of Biscay. This boat belongs to a whole fleet of huge vessels that catch fish en masse in waters where their practices are permitted. With 600 meter nets, they can capture a volume equivalent to that of 5 small trawlers over a year of activity. By way of defence, the shipowner notably advanced a too big catch which tore the nets, no joke. 

Industrial fishing, a deep destruction

Industrial fishing is a real scourge for the ocean and living species. The photo of the sea released by Sea Shepherd is only the tip of the iceberg. Explanations. the bottom trawling, fish aggregating devices (FADs), electrofishing, multiple forms of industrial fishing kill all kinds of marine species and even contribute to the extinction of certain birds. The direct effect is reflected in an increase in the mortality of protected species and a biased sex ratio in certain species which then struggle to reproduce. Industrial fishing also damages the ocean floor, in particular the practice of bottom trawling, which causes the erosion of the upper layers of the sea floor, thus leading to the death of the organisms that evolve there.

Meanwhile, industrial fisheries make light of legislation. Sea Shepherd was able to track down two English ships that bent the rules to get their way. The pair trawling practiced by these vessels is prohibited in their country because it is considered too destructive, but is authorized off the French coast where they were sailing in February 2022. As long as the respect for our oceans will not be on the political agenda, this kind of situation is likely to recur, to the benefit of the commercial interests of the giants of industrial fishing. 

Should we stop eating fish to fight against industrial fishing?

The simplistic answer would be that we stop eating fish immediately.. Overfishing and overexploitation of fish stocks have rendered them unable to maintain good health. Obviously, we must drastically reduce our consumption of seafood products and it is possible to eat fish more wisely. Finally, it is also a question of having a little discernment in the face of the labels affixed to seafood products. Sea Shepherd and Bloom have denounced the laxity of MSC certification in the face of industrial fishing giants. Remember that the choice of vegetarianism is not a reality for all. More than three billion people depend on fish for their protein intake. Many people around the world cannot maintain an exclusively plant-based diet for financial or cultural reasons. 

 Support those who fight for the respect of our oceans 

As citizens, we can sign petitions or make a donation if the heart tells us, and if our budget allows us. We will cite a few associations such as Sea Shepherd and its punchy operations which stimulate public debate, the famous Greenpeace or Bloom which is currently fighting against electric fishing, which it obtained a ban in the European Union in 2016. 

In conclusion, we cannot provide an all-in-one solution to the problems caused by industrial fishing, because simplifying the problem will not help solve it. Moreover, it is for this reason that the documentary Seaspiracy, released in March 2021, was singled out by specialists and members of environmental NGOs who noted vast inaccuracies. Let us turn instead to a sum of answers, some of which are directly within our reach to put us in a logic of continuous improvement to reframe this photo of the sea that has become too wobbly.

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