Fisherman’s Friend: Why We Should Tighten Measures on
Illegal Fishing Techniques
‘Man marks the earth with ruin; his control
Stops with the shore’ (Byron)
Unfortunately, Romantic poet Lord Byron’s statement developed into an abstract truth since the 19th century. The destruction of the ocean as an important habitat is being caused by humans. In the face of oil-platform catastrophes and the Great Pacific garbage patch, the ocean is losing its superior position against mankind; man is marking the sea with ruin too. A further irrefutable proof of that is the way people fish. Many fishing techniques by which fishers actively interfere with the natural cycle have been classified as illegal. Nevertheless, as fish stocks decrease, fishers are inventing ever new ways to continue catching huge amounts of fish. Most practices, such as dynamite fishing, are illegal in many countries, for instance Tanzania (cf. Braulik) and the Philippines (cf. Tarrazona). However, numbers show that fishers continue using these techniques, hence the existing measures are not sufficient. An estimated 11 to 26 million tons of fish were unlawfully fished worldwide in 2011. This roughly corresponds to between 14 and 33 percent of the world’s overall legal catch (cf. World Ocean Review). In addition, tens of thousands of animals are killed as bycatch, and habitats are being severely damaged (cf. WWF “Pirate Fishing”). In the following essay, I will discuss why measures against illegal fishing should be tightened even further, focusing on dynamite fishing practiced by locals and giant vessels and its effects. Firstly, I explore the environmental aspect, secondly, I investigate potential dangers for fishers, and thirdly I’ll take into consideration the humanitarian aspect before coming to a conclusion.
Modern fishing methods are resulting in extreme damage for maritime life. In order to spend less time on the open sea and still catch huge amounts of fish, and hence be more productive, fishers often resort to little helpers such as dynamite. The explosion kills the fish and the blast transports them towards the surface, allowing the fisher to collect the fish (cf. WWF “Destructive Fishing Practices”). Side effects of this particular technique include the detrimental impacts on underwater life. Far more fish get killed than are actually harvested from the sea (cf. Galbraith). Additionally, coral reefs are destroyed as the dynamite creates craters in the reefs. Destroyed coral reefs conclude in less fish being attracted to the coast due to a lack of food resources and shores will not be protected from ocean waves, storms, and currents. As growing coral reefs counteract the sinking of volcanic ocean islands (atolls), a lack of a natural barrier such as coral reefs would subsequently promote the sinking of atolls such as the Maldives (cf. Wanucha).
However, the fishing techniques discussed in the previous paragraph not only pose a threat to the environment but also to fishers, which, alongside the environmental aspects is another reason for tightening measures on illegal fishing. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), over 24,000 fishermen do not return from fishing at sea annually (cf. FAO). This is the result of drawing on dangerous tools such as dynamite and failed safety standards on vessels. Dynamite bombs consist of either kerosene and fertiliser or raw explosives filled into plastic bottles (cf. Braulik). The fishers throw the bombs into zones where supposedly large amounts of fish are present. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, this is most likely the case around coral reefs (cf. Braulik). Fishers have to be extremely careful as the shock wave reaches 30 to 100 feet from the blast. An additional danger is that the bomb might explode before the dynamite hits water (cf. Actman). Fishing vessels are even more unsafe than local fisher boats. The greed for money has led managers of vessels to cut costs of crew’s salaries and safety standards in favour of technology improvements and fishing gear for the vessel (cf. Knox).
The question that arises from the previous paragraph is: why do fishers face these dangers? Environmental journalist Kate Galbraith provides the following answer: “it [illegal fishing] continues in areas where explosives are available and people are desperate” (Galbraith). This means that past fishing methods are not sufficient to provide fishers with food. Due to over-fishing and environmental issues which arise from the fishing methods mentioned in the second paragraph, fishing grounds are becoming more deserted. Vessels that use destructive techniques earn between 10 to 23.5 billion US dollars annually (cf. WWF “Pirate Fishing”). In order to be able to compete in the fight for food resources as well as income, local fishers need to adjust their methods of fishing and turn away from traditional or sustainable fishing. According to the WWF, this applies to people of developing countries, “which depend on fishing for food, livelihoods and revenues” (WWF “Pirate Fishing”). The FAO adds that “billions of people are depending on the scarce marine resources” and rely on the fishers to supply them with food (FAO). Often these arguments drive fishers into boarding vessels and employing radical but effective techniques such as dynamite.
By taking a closer look at environmental aspects, dangers for fishers, and the humanitarian aspect, this essay brought forward plausible arguments that justify why we should tighten measures on illegal fishing techniques. However, this line of argumentation has also revealed that the solution is not just black and white. Local people often resort to illegal techniques to compete with large vessels managed by supervisors greedy for money. Subsequently, giant vessels should be the starting point for tightening measures. Authorities should check on zones more regularly and thoroughly, employ more fisheries enforcement officers, and track illegal fishers down. Slow Food, an organisation for local food, criticises a “lack of global fisheries management” (Slow Food). Slow Food sees this lack of global fisheries management as one of the basic problems for large-scale illegal fishing. I believe that introducing such a global management could assist in supporting the measures mentioned in this paragraph. The global management would need to work as a team. Countries with more capacities and trained staff should support countries that do not have the necessary means. Small-scale fishers should be educated on the outcomes their actions have. Due to illegal practices, fishing grounds might seem richer for a short period of time as nets are full of fish, but by destroying habitats, the fishing grounds will loose their biodiversity in the long run. As a consequence, fishers will loose their basic food resource. Therefore, the environmental destruction needs to be stopped to prevent irreparable damage as well as a shortage of food. Nature might be able to survive without humans, but humans will not survive without nature.
Actman, Jani. “In Tanzania, a Horrific Fishing Tactic Destroys All Sea Life.” Wildlife Watch. National Geographic Society, 30 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 July 2017. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/151230-Tanzania-blast-fishing-dynamite-coral-reefs/>.
Braulik, Gill; Wittich, Anja et. al. Fishing With Explosives in Tanzania: Spatial Distribution and Hotspots. Wildlife Conversation Society: Zanzibar, 2015, p. 4. Web. 22 July 2017. <https://newsroom.wcs.org/Portals/164/blast%20fishing%20report%20small.pdf>.
Byron, George Gordon. Childe Harolds Pilgrimage. Du Jardin-Sailly Brothers: Brussels,1829.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “Fishing at Sea is Probably the Most Dangerous Occupation in the World.” Safety for Fishermen. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 18 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 July 2017. <http://www.fao.org/fishery/safety-for-fishermen/en/>.
Galbraith, Kate. “The Horrors of Fishing With Dynamite.” Energy & Environment. The New York Times, 04 Feb. 2015. Web. 22 July 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/05/business/energy-environment/the-horrors-of-fishing-with-dynamite.html>.
Knox, John (Ed.) “Tragedy in the Marine Commons: The Intertwined Exploitation of Ocean Ecosystems and Fisheries Workers.” Greenpeace International, Human Rights at Sea et. al., October 2016. Web. 22 July 2017. <https://www.humanrightsatsea.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/20161010-TragedyInTheMarineCommons_SpecialRapporteurQuestionnaireResponse_Updated.pdf>.
Slow Food. “Destructive Fishing Practices and Bycatch.” Ocean Threats. Slow Food, n.d. Web. 22 July 2017. <http://slowfood.com/slowfish/pagine/eng/pagina.lasso?-id_pg=43>.
Tarrazona, Noel. “Philippines: Police Arrest Father-Son duo for Keeping Dynamites at Home.” News Society. International Business Times (Singapore Edition). 08 July 2017. Web. 22 July 2017. <http://www.ibtimes.sg/philippines-police-arrest-father-son-duo-keeping-dynamites-home-12305>.
Wanucha, Genevieve. “Coral Reefs and Sinking Islands: Revisiting Darwin’s Other Theory.” Featured Stories, MIT, MIT EAPS, MIT News, WHOI, WHOI News . Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 22 July 2017. <http://oceans.mit.edu/news/featured-stories/coral-reefs-sinking-islands-incomplete-theory-charles-darwin>.
World Ocean Review. “Illegal Fishing.” Fisheries. Maribus gGmbh, n.d. Web. 22 July 2017 <http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/>.
World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF). “Fishing Problems: Destructive Fishing Practices.” Our Earth. World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), n.d. Web. 22 July 2017. <http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/problems_fishing/destructive_fishing/>.
World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF). “Fishing Problems: Pirate Fishing.” Our Earth. World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), n.d. Web. 22 July 2017. <http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/problems_fishing/fisheries_management/illegal_fishing/>.
Sarah was listening to ‘Salt’ by B.Miles while editing this article.