Over a fifth of all fish caught are killed and discarded, study finds

The first comprehensive study of “bycatch” — unwanted fish caught and discarded by commercial fishing operations — has confirmed the worst fears of conservationists: Over a fifth of all fish caught by U.S. commercial fishers, around 1.1 million tons, are tossed out every year. Commissioned by marine eco-group Oceana, the study analyzed federal data between 1991 and 2002 to find the most and least efficient fisheries. Topping the study’s list of bad actors are shrimp operations in the Gulf of Mexico, whose huge trawling nets were responsible for about half of the nation’s bycatch in 2002. By contrast, Alaska fisheries have made notable progress in reducing waste. Needless to say, catching and scrapping millions of tons of fish hampers efforts to restore ailing fish stocks. “The scale of the problem here is enormous,” says one of the study’s authors.