Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is small-scale fishing less harmful?

Who are the ocean villains? Large-scale industrial fishermen are the most convenient target, but is "industrial" really a dirty word in fishing?

There is an un-examined assumption held by many ocean scientists and environmentalists: that small-scale fishing is inherently less harmful to ocean ecosystems than large-scale industrial fishing. This assumption shows up even in research done by well-known scientists.

small-scale fisheries in Peru are widespread and numerous (100 ports, 9500 vessels, & 37,000 fishers), and our observed effort constituted c. 1% of longline and net deployments. We suggest that the number of turtles captured per year is likely to be in the tens of thousands. Thus, the impacts of Peruvian SSF have the potential to severely impact sea turtles in the Pacific especially green, loggerhead and leatherback turtles.
This study is not alone. This study found disproportionately large harm caused by certain small-scale fisheries, and this report cautions against assuming that small-scale fisheries deserve special support based on the idea that they're less harmful to ocean ecosystems.

There are no easy answers, and I'm sorry to say that "small is beautiful" just doesn't work in fisheries.

"Turtle graveyard" photo from small-scale fishery impacts.


Mariam said...

yes, you are right small-scale fishing is less harmful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing this out, Mark. I'm just starting to think more about different fishing groups behave. It seems one assumption that still holds is that recreational fishermen are more pro-conservation. Have you heard this before?

Mark Powell said...

Many recreational fishermen are great conservationists, but IMO it's a persistent myth that recreational fishermen (or small-scale fishermen) are always more pro-conservation. Recreational fishermen have been the cause of conservation problems in some fisheries, and they have been very resistant to change. Sometimes the culprits are the for-hire boats that carry large packs of recreational fishermen.