People have fished for thousands of years. Yet, unless big changes are made, they may not fish much longer. Many kinds of fish are in danger of disappearing.

New ways of fishing are shrinking fish populations. Fishers take billions of pounds of fish from the sea each year. Scientists say many kinds of fish will soon be wiped out. Once they are gone, they will never come back.

There is a way to stop this from happening. Fishers need to start using sustainable fishing practices. 

Sustainable fishing is a way of fishing responsibly. It kills fewer fish. It also gives fish populations a chance to grow back. 

The world's fish are in serious danger. Look at the bluefin tuna, for example. Many people like how it tastes. Because of that, it has been very heavily fished. Today, there are many fewer bluefin tuna than there were in 1970. 

Fishers catch bluefin tuna in two harmful ways. One is purse seining. The other is longlining

Purse seine fishing uses a large net. First, the net is used to herd fish together. Then, it closes around them. The net scoops up many fish at a time. 

Longlining uses a very long fishing line that is dragged by a boat. The lines can be up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) long. They have thousands of hooks. Bits of food on the hooks attract fish.

Purse seining and longlining catch thousands of fish at a time. They also catch many fish that fishers were not trying to catch. Such fish are called bycatch. Birds and sea turtles can also be trapped by accident.

Sustainable Fishing Practices

It is possible to fish sustainably. In some parts of the world, people have been doing it for thousands of years. Today, we can learn much from these old ways of fishing.

The Tagbanua people of the Philippines are one example. They have been fishing sustainably for many years. The Tagbanuas fish for particular kinds of fish only during certain times of the year. The rest of the year, the fish are left alone. That gives their population time to grow larger again. 

The Tagbanuas also set aside certain areas as protected spots. Fishing is never allowed in these areas. When they do fish, the Tagbanuas catch only a small number of fish. They only take what they need to feed themselves and their communities. They mostly use hook-and-line fishing. 

If you have ever fished, you probably used a rod and reel. Rod-and-reel fishing is a newer form of hook-and-line fishing. It is much more sustainable than longlining. Only one fish is caught at a time, instead of thousands. There is also much less bycatch. If you hook something you weren't planning to catch, you can put it back in the water right away.

Another way we can all help is by no longer eating fish. Ocean scientist Sylvia Earle has stopped eating fish. She believes we need to take a break from eating seafood. Fish populations need a chance to grow larger again, she says.

"I personally have stopped eating seafood," Earle says. "I know too much. I know that every fish counts." Fish are very important to the health of our oceans, Earle says. In turn, the oceans "make the planet work." 

Of course, many of us want to keep eating fish. If we do, we should choose seafood that was fished sustainably. Fish and our ocean are just too important not to care.

 

sustainable fishing
With technology and fisheries management, most fisheries can be made sustainable.
abstain
Verb

to refrain, or stop doing something entirely.

anadromous
Adjective

characteristic of an animal that migrates from salt water to fresh water.

aquatic
Adjective

having to do with water.

bait
Noun

object used to attract something.

bycatch
Noun

fish or any other organisms accidentally caught in fishing gear.

cast net
Noun

circular or oval fishing net, usually small enough to be thrown by one person. Also called a throw net.

caviar
Noun

delicacy made from the eggs of sturgeon or other fish.

conservationist
Noun

person who works to preserve natural habitats.

coral reef
Noun

rocky ocean features made up of millions of coral skeletons.

Noun

steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

data
Plural Noun

(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.

drift net
Noun

extremely large fishing net that can drift with currents or tides.

economic
Adjective

having to do with money.

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

Explorer-in-Residence
Noun

pre-eminent explorers and scientists collaborating with the National Geographic Society to make groundbreaking discoveries that generate critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories.

fisheries management
Noun

practice of maintaining fish stocks and the economic activity of fishing.

fishery
Noun

industry or occupation of harvesting fish, either in the wild or through aquaculture.

fish stock
Noun

amount of fish available to be harvested in a specific area at a specific time.

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

harpoon
Noun

long, sharp tool mostly used for hunting whales and large ocean fish.

high seas
Noun

part of the ocean not belonging to any country or nation. Also called the open sea.

hook-and-line
Adjective

traditional method of catching fish, with baited hooks at the end of lines of wire.

import
Verb

to bring in a good or service from another area for trade.

indigenous culture
Noun

languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods of people who are native to a specific geographic area.

laud
Verb

to honor or praise.

longlining
Noun

fishing practice using a long, main line with many branch lines, all with baited hooks.

municipality
Noun

community unit, such as a city or town.

overfish
Verb

to harvest aquatic life to the point where species become rare in the area.

pelagic
Adjective

having to do with the open ocean.

Polynesia
Noun

island group in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand, Hawaii, and Easter Island.

prey
Noun

animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

prohibit
Verb

to disallow or prevent.

purse seining
Noun

fishing technique that relies on a large net to catch entire schools of fish.

quota
Noun

percentage or part of a total amount.

raw material
Noun

matter that needs to be processed into a product to use or sell.

regulate
Verb

to determine and administer a set of rules for an activity.

roe
Plural Noun

mass of eggs in the ovaries of a female fish.

seafood
Noun

fish and shellfish consumed by humans.

spawn
Verb

to give birth to.

sushi
Noun

bite-sized rolls or balls of sticky rice topped with seafood or vegetables.

Noun

collection of commercial or subsistence fishing practices that maintain the population of fish and fish stocks.

technology
Noun

the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

Noun

rise and fall of the ocean's waters, caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun.