Fishing for Sport and Profit


Fishing for sport
A fisherman is a person who engages in fishing, as recreation or as a profession. Recreational fishing is basically for pleasure and may involve a competition to see who can land the largest catch (total weight of fish caught). Most forms of recreational fishing are carried out using a rod, reel, line and hooks with various types of bait such as worms, maggots and, dough or anything the fisherman, thinks will attract fish. Artificial bait such as lures and flies are also used. Fishermen who engage in this type of fishing are generally called ‘anglers’. Recreational fishing is also subject to regulations and licensing laws, which vary from country to country.
‘Sport or ‘big-game fishing’ is also recreational, but describes fishing from boats to catch large fish including tuna, marlin and sharks. This sport often involves the fisherman being strapped into a seat to prevent him being pulled overboard.

Fishing for profit
Commercial fishing is totally different from recreational fishing and is one of the world’s most dangerous occupations. Commercial fishermen have to venture far out to sea, often for several days or weeks on end and under adverse conditions. Sought-after catches are not limited to fish but include seafood such as prawns, squid, lobster etc.

Commercial fishing methods:
Long lines, where up to 100 km of lines, with thousands of baited hooks, are dragged along behind the boat or kept afloat overnight by buoys.
Gill nets, weighted at the bottom and held in a vertical position by buoys. Fish are unable to see the net and become trapped by their gills or fins as they try to escape.
Purse or seine nets, used primarily to catch tuna. The fishermen track the fish and drop a net to surround the school of tuna, before drawing the edges of the net together and trapping the fish.
Trawling involves dragging a huge bag-shaped net along the sea bed and catching anything in its path. Indiscriminate trawling on an industrial scale damages the ecology of the sea bed by ripping up everything in the trawl net’s path.
Many of today’s sea-going fishing boats are very efficient floating factories, processing tons of fish ready for the market place.

Unfortunately, whilst commercial fishermen are only out to catch fish that are marketable, the above methods also catch and kill tens of thousands of fish and other sea creatures with no commercial value. Overfishing has long been a major concern. According to surveys carried out between 2000 and 2010, some 85% of the world’s oceans are seriously overfished, with only about 10% of the former stocks of large fish such as tuna, marlin and swordfish now remaining. Despite this, many governments continue to subsidise fishing fleets to enable fishermen to sustain or even increase their activities.

Regulation of commercial fishing
Fishing quotas are issued by many governments to regulate fishing. These quotas can be bought, sold and leased and generally regulate the total catch allowed by weight over a certain period. However, there is a downside: fish in the catch are often too small to meet regulations and must be thrown back into the sea. Unfortunately by the time they reach the water, they are already dead. In European Union waters the current rules date from 2010 and control how, where and when fish may be caught. By this means, the European Commission seeks to manage fish stocks and reduce overfishing.

Overfishing and population
In the end, probably the only way to tackle overfishing and save the world’s fish stocks for future generations is to reduce demand, and that means lowering the world’s population. In 1950 our planet supported two and a half thousand million (2.5 US billion) people; in 2018 there were over seven and a half thousand million (7.6 US billion) mouths to feed.
Every year sees 80 million more people added to the Earth’s population. Such a rate of growth is unsustainable and sensible regulation of fishing will be almost impossible when food and water to feed the world’s ever expanding population are at a premium.

Fish farming (aquaculture)
Farmed fish may offer another solution: fish farm production is increasing at 6.9% a year, and is expected to produce more fish than traditional catching methods soon: farmed fish produced in 2006 was estimated at 51.7 million tonnes, up from just 1 million tonnes a year in the 1950s. In 2006 farmed and captured fish together totalled 110 million tonnes of food, equivalent to 16.7kg per head of population: fish as a whole provided 2.9 billion people with 15% of their animal protein intake. The largest farmed fish producer by far is China, its reported output representing 67% of the world’s aquaculture. In fact, if China is included in the figures (and it is often excluded due to the unreliability of its reporting) fish farming is growing faster than population figures. Even if China is excluded, farmed fish production is still increasing faster than population growth – but only just.

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