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April 25, 2000

How do you know whether the fish you are consuming were caught as a result of destructive fishing practices?

One of the most destructive fishing practices is the discarding of non-target species, which are untangled from nets or unhooked from lines and thrown back into the ocean, dead. They may be of no commercial value, or simply illegal to keep. Shrimp fishing may occasion the discarding of 90% of the catch of which they are a part. In the drift net fishery, thousands of kilometers of nets are lost or abandoned at sea. They continue to catch and kill fish, birds, turtles and marine mammals. The newly entangled animals serve to attract new arrivals which become entangled themselves and attract more victims. No one benefits from what these "ghost nets" catch.

So what can you do?

Become informed as to how the fish species sold in your food stores are caught. Do not buy fish from fisheries that employ destructive fishing practices. When you are buying fish or ordering it from a menu, ask where the fish was caught and what method was used, or whether it involved a bycatch. Ask about the population status of the fish you are consuming and if that fishery is responsibly managed. If the store doesn't have the answers, don't buy the fish. In all cases tell the owner of the store or restaurant why you are not buying a particular fish.

You can be an informed participant in the decision-making process, a process that starts creating a solution to any problem. This can include complaints and remedies against bad decisions by legislators. It is important to understand that there may be consequences for marine mammals and other species as a direct result of the fish you are eating. You really do make a difference--often a very large difference--by making informed choices, and by informing those whose livelihoods it affects why you are doing so.

"Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens·"
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Principle 10, 1992.

Listen to Roger Payne's Voice from the Sea piece entitled:
Getting caught in a net off Sri Lanka.

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