Hundreds of thousands of marine animals – including seabirds, turtles, sharks, whales and seals – are dying every year worldwide after being accidentally captured in fishing nets, a report warns.
The report led by wildlife charity WWF and in partnership with Sky Ocean Rescue calls for cameras on fishing boats to help monitor the sea life that is mistakenly caught and killed in what is known as a form of bycatch.
The What’s in the net report says commercial fisheries net a considerable amount of bycatch per year worldwide – including around 720,000 seabirds, 300,000 cetaceans including dolphins, 345,000 seals and sealions, more than 250,000 turtles and millions of sharks.
Industrial scale fishing is pushing some species to the edge of extinction as well as threatening fish stocks.
There is currently minimal independent monitoring of bycatch and no precise way of measuring the issue, according to conservationists.
New UK fisheries legislation includes working towards minimising and where possible ending bycatch of sensitive species and recording all catches.
The 53-page report calls on there to be remote electronic monitoring (REM) as a solution to this – involving cameras attached to fishing boats as a cost-effective approach to data collection.
Fishing activity sensors, satellite modems and GPS receivers, working together, would allow the fishing to be quantified and linked to a specific time and location.
Such systems are by no means new and has been tried and tested in operations the past 15 years, according to the report.
The long-term hope is to make fishing more sustainable, ensure companies comply with their pledges to improve their processes and to offer customers confidence about where there fish comes from.
The report also claims that accelerating the process could perhaps be achieved by making it mandatory – as well as developing incentives and market demand for its usage.
Helen McLachlan, programme manager, fisheries, at WWF-UK, said that “effective monitoring” can “help minimise the needless death of millions of marine mammals, turtles, sharks and seabirds in fishing nets across our oceans every year”.
She added: “WWF is calling on the UK to demonstrate global leadership by adopting full monitoring with cameras across vessels fishing in our waters, including those fisheries known to be at high risk of wildlife bycatch.”
Fiona Ball, group director bigger picture at Sky, says working towards making fishing more sustainable is “inextricably linked to climate change” and that this form of monitoring will “improve the health of our waters”.