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What is longline fishing and why is it harmful?

Longline fishing is a fishing method that involves using a long line with numerous baited hooks attached, which is set in the open ocean to catch a diverse range of fish species. This fishing technique has been around for centuries, and today it is practiced on a large scale by commercial fishing fleets.

However, despite its popularity, longline fishing has come under intense scrutiny from marine conservationists and environmental organizations for its negative impact on the marine ecosystem. This fishing method has been proven to be incredibly harmful, and here’s why.

Firstly, longline fishing targets not just the intended fish species but also other marine animals, including sharks, seabirds, and sea turtles. These animals get accidentally caught on the hooks while they are searching for food or bite on the bait, leading to their death or serious injury.

The number of unwanted catches, known as bycatch, is significant, with studies showing that up to 80% of the catch consists of species other than the targeted fish. The majority of these animals are thrown back into the ocean, often already dead or dying, without being utilized in any way. This waste of animal life is both cruel and ecologically damaging.

Secondly, the use of longline fishing has a severe impact on many fish stocks. Due to the indiscriminate nature of the method, longline fishing often results in the overfishing of vulnerable or endangered species, such as bluefin tuna, marlin, and swordfish. The excessive fishing of such species can cause irreversible harm to the populations, potentially driving them to extinction.

Lastly, the practice of longline fishing has a significant impact on the ocean floor. When the lines are set down, it damages the seabed, disrupting important carbon stores and causing soil erosion. Additionally, the lines that accidentally become detached from the boats, Known as ghost fishing gear, can continue to damage and kill marine life, as they float around in open water.

Longline fishing is an unsustainable and ecologically damaging practice that has significant negative consequences for the marine ecosystem. Fortunately, there are alternatives such as selective fishing techniques, that focus on targeting specific species and reducing bycatch, which show promise in reducing the impact of fishing on the marine environment. It is essential that we take steps to protect the ocean’s delicate biodiversity and ensure that our fishing practices are ecologically sound.

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