Being an open ocean fisherman is one of the most dynamic jobs out there. Boats will go out days to months at a time, returning to shore only to drop off their catch and fill up their fuel tanks. One of the reasons people love this job is the dynamic and wild nature of it that keep them on their toes, but sometimes they end up with catches they weren't on the market for. These accidental catches and the large ecosystem impacts of commercial fishing draw the entire industry into question.
Commercial fishing is completely dependent on the fish run at the moment. Sometimes there will be days that end up with no catches which isn't too unusual, but sometimes entire fishing seasons will go by with almost no large catches. That puts the livelihoods of all serious fishermen in a serious spot and drive up market fish prices.
The technical definition of commercial fishing is when fishermen are catching mass quantities of fish not for personal or family use but to sell to others. This is a blanket term for many marine life jobs and is often used to refer to people who catch other sea creatures like, crabs, oysters, or lobsters for a living.
Part of the thrill of being a commercial fisherman is the dangers involved in the job. The boats used in commercial fishing look large by most standards, but actually are quite small in comparison to most open ocean crafts. This means that when these boats are out on the sea if a big storm hits they are in a perilous place.
When looking at the dangers and environmental drawbacks of commercial fishing many people wonder what could possibly be driving this market. For U.S. based fishing boats, Alaska is the most popular place for seasonal fishing, most of their product is sold in the U.S. to satisfy people's taste for non native fish. For example eating salmon in Florida.
To catch the massive quantities of fish that the global market is calling for, these commercial fishermen have to have some serious hardware. The most important of which is the heavy duty nets they use to pull catches frequently weighing over 5k pounds of fish through and out of the ocean.
With all negatives of commercial fishing aside, one thing we know for sure is it is more engaged than your average office job. Fishermen are constantly on the move, both physically and mentally, doing things from pulling in and moving their catches to charting their maneuvering through the sea and planning market sales.
Here you can see one of a commercial fishing boats massive nets, filled to the brim with what seems to be gigantic load of fish. But the fishermen here knew something was off, the net was far more full, heavy, and unusually shaped than is within the range of normal, even considering how much fish runs can vary year to year.
The fishermen in charge of this load unloaded their catch on the deck of their boat, not knowing what to expect. What poured out was an absolutely massive, and dead, shark. The shark had accidentally swam across the path of the fish net and most likely got swooped up before it even knew what was happening.
It may surprise many to know that this is actually not a very uncommon occurrence in commercial fishing. Because most commercial fishing is done by dragging open topped nets across the ocean behind a boat it is very easy for unintended creatures swimming near to end up with the fish that big boats were trying to catch.
The sad reality is that most often when an accidental catch happens there it is usually dead by the time that the net is brought up to the surface. When they are still alive some boats will try to release them immediately into the water, but others will illegally process and sell the accidental prey.
Many people are afraid of sharks, and with good reason, because they are top predators in the ocean. What many people don't think about is that people are a lot more likely to harm sharks than they are to harm us, both through accidental catches like this one and sport fishing that targets big predators for the thrill.
Upon hearing that we are slowly killing off sharks many people might ask if this is even a problem? It is. As keystone predators in their ecosystems when sharks are taken out all of the other species balances within the area are thrown out of whack which can cause species, both flora and fauna, to go go extinct.
There are many organizations out there, from PETA to Food is Power, that are actively fighting to stop this industry from growing. If you search on the internet for either of these groups or any others like them you can find out what research they are doing into the impacts of fishing and what they are doing to protect our oceans.
If the depletion of fish and big predators from the oceans is concerning to you, there are tons of options out there to you. The biggest lifestyle change you can make to totally cut out your personal consumption impact is going vegan. However, if you aren't ready to make that big of a change you can also consider looking into local and sustainably caught fish options.
This may surprise many people to know that scientists believe we know more about outer space than the ocean. There is tons going under a tranquil blue surface, like explosive volcanic activity, that we don't know about, even though it is happening right here on our planet. Many things go examined because of how hard it is do go down long term underwater.