Why is longline fishing harmful?

Longline fishing is one of the most common methods of industrial fishing today. The technique involves dropping a long line equipped with baited hooks into the ocean and dragging it behind a vessel for hours, if not days, until it collects as many fish as possible. While longline fishing may seem like an efficient way to harvest fish, it comes with serious environmental consequences.

One of the main problems with longline fishing is that it has a significant bycatch. Bycatch refers to the unintentional capture and killing of non-target species, including sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, and whales. Because longline gear covers an extensive area of the ocean and can consist of thousands of baited hooks, it can easily ensnare and kill these animals that are not the intended target.

In addition to bycatch, longline fishing causes damage to the seafloor habitat. The anchors used to deploy the longlines can destroy the ocean floor’s ecosystem by crushing delicate corals and sponges. Furthermore, longline fishing can damage underwater ecosystems by disturbing the ocean’s benthic habitats, which are essential for the survival of many marine species.

Longline fishing also threatens the sustainability of fish populations. Targeted species, such as tuna and swordfish, are often overfished, meaning they are caught faster than they can reproduce. Longline fishing exacerbates this problem by not only targeting these species but also taking juvenile and breeding adults from the ocean. This practice can lead to a decline in fish populations, which can negatively impact the ocean’s food web.

Lastly, longline fishing can change the behavior of marine animals. The longlines not only lure the targeted fish but also attract other sea creatures that mistake the bait for food. This can cause unnatural aggregation of marine animals, which can affect feeding patterns, mating behaviors, and their overall migration patterns.

Longline fishing is harmful to the ocean’s biodiversity and sustainability. It causes widespread damage to the ocean’s ecosystem, captures and kills non-target species, and promotes overfishing of targeted fish populations. As consumers, we have a responsibility to choose seafood options that are sustainably caught and avoid seafood harvested using destructive fishing methods like longline fishing.

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