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Destructive Fishing Practices

Last updated: 08/07/2015

Fishing activities also affect the wider marine environment, mainly by accidentally catching other species (bycatch), discards and disturbing the seabottom and its communities.


Species that are not targeted by the fishery, such as marine mammals, seabirds, turtles and other fish species, as well as juvenile fish, may be caught unintentionally in fishing gear, and some 38 million tonnes are therefore thrown overboard again, dead or dying.

Mainly, bycatch results from the use of non-selective gear, such as trawls and bottom-set nets, and can to a certain extent be avoided by using different bycath reduction devices, such as grids or panels inserted into parts of the trawl nets. Read more.


Discards fish, but also crustaceans, molluscs, marine mammals or seabirds caught by fishermen and then thrown back – constitute one of the main problems with the world’s fisheries today.

The lack of regulations in the majority of fishing grounds causes a great part of the catch to be returned to the sea, as their marketing is prohibited or not commercially viable. Fish that are perfectly marketable are in some cases discarded to make room for specimens that have a higher sales value, an unethical and wasteful practice known as highgrading. Read more.

Lack of regulations

Each year, depending on the fishery, up to 60 percent of live fish and other organisms caught in European fishing gear are thrown back into the sea. These discards undermine the effectiveness of measures taken to conserve the resource, since even though these fish are not landed, they nevertheless die and thereby reduce the existing stock and its spawning capacity.

The objective to reduce by-catches and discards is thus a key to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Read more.

Direct effects of fishing gears

Fishing, especially trawling, also has a direct impact on the habitat in which it takes place. A trawl beam may weigh a tonne or more, and a single trawl run across a hard or soft bottom may destroy the habitat for many species. Read more.