Deep-sea fishing is an unsustainable practice that must be stopped, marine scientists argue in a new study.
The Sustainability of Deep-sea Fisheries study was led by Elliott Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Institute in Bellevue, Wash. In the paper, scientists say that the vast majority of deep-sea fisheries are unsustainable.
The deep sea is the world's worst place to catch fish, said Norse said in a statement. Deep-sea fishes are especially vulnerable because they can't repopulate quickly after being overfished.
Scientists recommend that consumers fish in waters that are closer to home and have a faster replenishing rate, rather than fishing in the deep-sea, where the turnaround rate is much slower due to lack of light and limited nutrients.
The study, published in the journal Marine Policy, also notes that many deep-sea species have larger eggs, which means they usually have lower rates of reproduction.
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Because these fish grow slowly and live a long time, they can only sustain a very low rate of fishing, said Selina Heppell, a marine fisheries ecologist at Oregon State University. On the high seas, it is impossible to control or even monitor the amount of fishing that is occurring. The effects on local populations can be devastating.
The scientists called for stricter rules on deep-sea fishing to ensure that fisheries aren't depleted. They suggested that the fisheries be governed by highly precautionary rules, as well as a special management body, and that they be supported with the appropriate data and information.
Since most of the deep-sea fishing waters are international, the scientists also suggested that individual countries manage their vessels and people.
With slow-growing fish, there's economic incentive to kill them all and reinvest the money elsewhere to get a higher return-on-investment, said Norse. Killing off life in the deep sea one place after another isn't good for our oceans or economies.