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Call for beam trawl ban

Published in The Food Magazine issue 75
24th November 2006

Commercial fishermen kill or throw away one quarter of the fish they catch – as well as seabirds, sea turtles, marine mammals and other ocean life, according to a new campaign from Greenpeace. Around 300,000 cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) die as ‘bycatch’ each year.

Two boys look at a table covered with fish and shellfish discarded by beam trawlersDestructive fishing methods result in a quarter of all fish caught being thrown away. This Greenpeace display shows some of the unwanted marine life disposed of by trawlers.

In October, the environmental campaign group spread smelly samples of a typical haul of non-target species across tables in Trafalgar Square, London, to demonstrate just how wasteful modern fish trawling can be.

Beam trawling has been compared to dragging a net big enough to encompass several Boeing aeroplanes across the rainforest, uprooting everything in its path, indiscriminately. On the seabed, such destruction is largely invisible and therefore goes unchecked.

Greenpeace wants to see the practice banned. Due to such unsustainable practices, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN warns that 70% of the world's commercially important marine stocks are fully fished, overexploited, depleted or slowly recovering.

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Greenpeace reports that supermarkets such as Waitrose, M&S and Sainsbury's are now leading the way in excluding endangered fish species from their shelves, and beginning to offer certified sustainable fish in its place. Following adverse media coverage, ASDA is now starting to follow suit, whilst Somerfield and Iceland are still lagging behind. Supermarkets account for 90% of all seafood sales in the UK.

Also in October, a global trade association set up its first office in the UK, aiming to promote sustainable seafood. The Seafood Choices Alliance will bring together conservation groups, corporate partners and other interested parties to attempt to reach consensus and agree actions to ensure the long-term supply of seafood and conservation of marine habitats.

Murdock the fisherman's catFishy website launched
The Marine Stewardship Council has launched a new website, for children and teachers. Fish & Kids provides an enjoyable way to teach children about fish and fishing – including the environmental problems of overfishing and bycatch. The teaching materials are presented by Murdock the Fisherman's Cat.

Useful resources

For details of the Seafood Choices Alliance see:

For details of the Greenpeace Oceans campaign see: