What is an illegal fishing method

Fish (wild)

EU labeling requirement for fishing methods

In order to be able to understand the respective catching method of the fish in addition to the trade name, production method (e.g. wild catch or aquaculture) and fishing area, the EU has introduced a corresponding labeling requirement. Unfortunately, the directive only provides for a rather rough labeling; it hardly allows any conclusions to be drawn as to which of the different fishing methods was used. More precise information is only voluntary and even this still does not indicate the exact method of fishing. This becomes clear using the example of the mandatory labeling provided for the »hooks and long lines« method:

On the one hand, the name of this method can stand for the somewhat less damaging, "classic" fishing rod. Or it is a "longline" on which thousands of live bait fish are impaled over a length of up to 100 km. These should attract the desired fish. However, there are longlines that are hauled in relatively quickly, but also those in which the caught fish are painfully "hooked" for hours. In addition, a longline causes a lot of bycatch and attracts birds, which can be fatally injured on the hook. With the mandatory labeling (here: "hooks and long lines"), it remains unclear for the consumer how much the fishing method really pollutes the environment and animals.

The animal welfare organization fair-fish proposes a more precise labeling based on animal and environmental pollution, which we fundamentally support.

Killing the fish

Most commercially caught fish, if alive, are not stunned when brought on board. They either choke in the air or they die while being gutted alive and conscious. Sometimes the fish are also placed on blocks of ice or in ice water after being hauled in, which is likely to increase and prolong their suffering.

In a Dutch study, the time was measured until the caught fish lost consciousness. Depending on the species and handling, it was 55 minutes to over 4 hours if the animals were allowed to suffocate, or 25 to 65 minutes if the fish started to be eviscerated after being hauled in. During this time, the animals suffer from stress, which v. a. Another reason is that they are not in their natural element, water.

Environmental impact of fishing

The imbalance in the ecosystems caused by overfishing has fatal consequences for food chains and interdependencies between the individual fish species as well as for the entire habitat. Species, whose natural enemies are "fished away", spread uncontrollably. If, for example, the number of fish that eat zooplankton increases due to the loss of the predator, then the latter decreases. Phytoplankton, on the other hand, multiply unchecked when there is less zooplankton and therefore less predators - an algal bloom occurs. The fading algae sink into the depths where bacteria, which need oxygen, decompose them. When oxygen becomes scarce, oxygen-free death zones are created in the sea.

Deep-sea fishing, which has been increasing since the 1970s - in the lightless zone below 800 meters - not only decimates the very slowly reproducing fish stocks in the deep sea. It also destroys the unique seabed through the use of bottom trawls (see section »Physical suffering and damage to fish«). Some corals only grow a few millimeters a year, so recovery can take several decades. Studies show that after the use of bottom trawls, biodiversity fell to 59% and only bare rock remained on 95% of the area.

Illegal fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing) are a major problem: In 2011, experts assumed up to 26 million tons of illegally caught marine animals - around a third of the total legal world catch. More recent figures estimate that between 8 and 14 million tons of unreported catches are traded annually. Illegal fishing fishes illegally in areas of other nations or disregards fishing laws such as fishing times. Even illegal and particularly cruel dynamite fishing continues to be used, especially in Asia, despite bans. In the case of catches that have not been reported, quantities are not given or given less. In unregulated fishing, there is no catch management whatsoever in a particular area, e.g. B. in the South Atlantic. Unfortunately, IUU fishing, which is particularly lucrative from the point of view of duties and taxes, often goes unpunished. Because in many countries around the world there is little or no budget available for fisheries control.

When it comes to illegality, the working conditions of people must also be taken into account: cases of slavery and inhumane conditions on ships are reported again and again, especially from Southeast Asia.

What you can do

  • It is almost impossible for normal consumers to buy wild fish where one can be sure that no fish, live bait and / or other animals ("bycatch") have suffered badly. We therefore generally advise against consuming these animals.
  • Also refrain from consuming fish, which are considered in guidebooks (e.g. from WWF and Greenpeace) to be still consumable from an ecological point of view: If fish consumption is generally too high, it will be ineffective in the long term to reduce consumption to the most stable so far Redirect species, as sooner or later they will also be overfished.
  • We also advise against consuming fish with a sustainability seal (such as MSC), as their criteria contain practically no animal welfare standards and are therefore not a solution from an animal welfare point of view.
  • The main argument for fish consumption is the supply of omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered health-promoting. However, you can use these e.g. B. good with linseed oil (already 1 tablespoon per day is sufficient - linseed oil enriched with DHA is particularly recommended), hemp oil, walnuts, ground linseed or certain algae products.
  • Visit our Vegan Taste Week to get valuable tips on starting an animal-friendly diet.
  • Help us with our commitment to the animals.

Article for download

You can also download this article as a PDF document with all sources.

Further articles on the subject of fish (wild) can be found here

Stay informed

Register and we will keep you up to date on projects and petitions:

By clicking on »Register«, you consent, until further notice, to receiving personalized newsletters from the Albert Schweitzer Foundation for those around you. These contain information about our petitions, events and animal welfare issues. You can revoke your consent to receive the newsletter at any time, e. B. with an email to [email protected] Further information can be found in our data protection declaration.