Today, Oceana released a new report that finds fishermen in the United States could be throwing away approximately $1 billion annually in wasted catch, or bycatch, which is the discarding of non-target fish and marine wildlife at sea, often already dead or dying. These findings, which examine the economic value of discarded fish lost to the U.S. fishing industry, are a follow-up to Oceana’s previous report Wasted Catch: Unresolved Bycatch Problems in U.S. Fisheries.
“Bycatch is bad business. We’re not just throwing away fish, we’re throwing away money," said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. “While improvements have been made in U.S. fishery management, the bottom line is that $1 billion in wasted catch is too much. The U.S. must continue to move forward on reducing the amount of bycatch in our nation’s fisheries.”
In Oceana’s new report, titled Wasted Cash: The Price of Waste in the U.S. Fishing Industry, the most recently available bycatch data from the National Marine Fisheries Service was multiplied by the price per pound of discarded fish species, and then compiled for a nationwide estimate of the lost economic value. This conservative analysis provides a snapshot of the real value wasted from inefficient fishing operations. According to government estimates, U.S. fishermen discard approximately 20 percent of their catch every year, amounting to 2 billion pounds of fish.
“The staggering amount of fish thrown away every year in the U.S. represents a real loss, both to fishermen and the future resilience of ocean ecosystems,” said Amanda Keledjian, report author and marine scientist at Oceana. “Fisheries need to take the same steps other successful businesses do to cut waste and increase efficiency. In most cases, fishermen have the means and knowledge to make these changes, but lack the economic incentives to do so.”
South Atlantic and Gulf:
$100 million worth of fish discarded in the southeast shrimp trawl fishery
$4 million worth of target fish discarded in the Atlantic pelagic longline fishery, including tuna, sharks and swordfish
$3 million worth of red grouper and $250,000 worth of red snapper discarded in the snapper-grouper longline fishery
New England and Mid-Atlantic:
$25 million worth of discarded fish in bottom trawl fisheries, equivalent to 20% of the total value of these fisheries
$8.5 million worth of discarded summer and yellowtail flounder in trawl and dredge fisheries, equivalent to 30% of the earnings for these species
$3 million worth of severely depleted Atlantic cod discarded
Alaska and Pacific:
$53 million worth of Pacific halibut discarded in Alaskan fisheries in one year, equivalent to 25% of the annual landed value in the region
$17 million worth of fish discarded by flatfish trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska
$0.5 million worth of bluefin tuna discarded in the California drift gillnet fishery in one year
In the report, Oceana recommends a three-step approach for fisheries managers to increase efficiency and cut down on lost value due to bycatch:
COUNT -- Accounting for Bycatch: Everything that is caught in a fishery, including bycatch, should be counted. Without accurate estimates of how much fishermen are catching and discarding, fisheries managers have no way to account for the negative consequences of bycatch, including the failure of juvenile fish to mature, off-the-books fishing on depleted species and lost future revenue.
CAP -- Bycatch Limits Pay Dividends: Establishing scientifically based bycatch limits is critical for maintaining healthy fishery resources and for fishermen to avoid financial losses from continued overfishing and premature fishery closures.
CONTROL -- Economic Incentives Change Behavior: Fisheries managers should provide incentives to minimize bycatch and avoid economic losses like early fisheries closures that result from exceeding bycatch limits. These could include incentives to use real-time reporting, cleaner gear, time-area management, bycatch reduction devices or other emerging economic tools.
To access all of Oceana’s materials, including the full report, a brochure with a summary of the findings, photos, expert bios and more, please visit www.oceana.org/wastedcash.