Ocean wildlife is in danger. Aquatic animals are falling prey to bycatch at a startling rate. But what is bycatch, and how can we help? Bycatch occurs when fishermen unintentionally catch a species that wasn’t their specific target. The most common cause of bycatch is the use of fishing gear that pulls in mass quantities of seafood at a time, such as longlines and bottom trawls. Hook-and-line fishing is a much more environmentally conscious method of catching fish because if an unwanted species is caught, it can easily be released immediately.
Bycatch affect not only smaller animals like fish, but also turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals - including dolphins; all of these types of marine life can get accidentally caught on a fisherman’s longline. Some of these animals, like turtles, vaquitas, and many species of fish, already have populations that are considered vulnerable or critically endangered. So what can people do to make a change? Unless we want to live on a planet that doesn’t have loggerhead sea turtles or bluefin tuna, we must take responsibility for our actions, and do our part to keep the oceans full of the wildlife that belong there.
What can you do to help?
One very easy way we can all steward our seas is by making sustainable seafood choices. Eating sustainably sourced seafood not only helps reduce bycatch, but also promotes the sale of fish species whose populations are not endangered and can easily recover. Not all fish species listed on restaurant menus can recover from regular commercial fishing. Some species are critically endangered and/or vulnerable. Thus, it’s important to educate ourselves on what we can eat with a clean conscience, versus what we should avoid.
The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch program works to create a better future for our oceans by advancing policy and educating restaurants and retailers, as well as consumers. They have published helpful guides to help consumers discern which types of seafood are the best choices for consumption, compared to which ones should be thoughtfully consumed or completely avoided.
The guides are specific to each state in the United States and are updated twice a year to ensure that the most recent information is included. Making use of the guides the Seafood Watch creates is a great way to be an environmentally conscious seafood eater.
The Seafood Watch guide for Florida is as follows:
Following this guide is one way you can do your part to save our seas. For more information on how you can conserve our oceans and the wildlife in them, check out our educational programs, which give you a chance to learn more about marine mammals in the Florida Keys. If you would like to dedicate your time to help our staff fulfill our mission of benefitting marine mammals, click here.