Industrial Fishing

There was a time when coastal communities fished for sustenance, living in balance with the ocean.

The commercial fisheries which operate today are driven by profit. They demand infinite growth on a finite planet and take without giving back.

With technologies like sonar to locate the fish, massive nets and lines that stretch for miles, these factories at sea have decimated life in the ocean.

Within 50 years 90% of all large fish in the ocean have been wiped out. 

The commodification of fish is part of the problem. In our culture's economic system living fish have no value until they are converted into fish sticks, fillets or feed for livestock. 

Fish are not considered "wildlife" the way birds and other animals on land might be. They are often referred to as "stocks" - resources to be exploited. In reality, fish are living beings whose lives are just as valuable to them as yours is to you and mine is to me. They have important roles to play in their own communities.


There are numerous fishing methods with detrimental impacts on the ocean. Bottom trawlers scrape the ocean floor, scooping up everything in their path, clear cutting habitat like corals and sponges so that even if a fish managed to escape the net it would have no home to return to. There are enough longlines set in the ocean every day to wrap around the planet 500 times, with miles of baited hooks catching everything from sea turtles to sharks, sea birds, small fish, large fish, surface and deep water animals. 

Industrial fisheries are subsidized to the tune of 35 billion dollars a year globally.

Each year industrial fisheries waste 54 billion pounds of fish as bycatch - fish who are caught, killed, and thrown back into the ocean because they weren't the target species. Shrimp trawlers, for example, waste up to 80% of what they catch.

Most fish don't survive when they are pulled out of the ocean and thrown back because they have air bladders in their bodies which explode as they are pulled from high pressure in the depths of the ocean to low pressure at the surface. 


30% of the fish taken from the ocean each year are fed to livestock and pets. It has been said that cows, pigs, chickens and house cats are eating more fish than all the world's sharks.

There are many myths surrounding alternatives to industrial fishing. Farmed fish might sound like a good idea, but the reality is most farmed fish are being fed fish from the ocean. It can take up to 7 pounds of ocean caught fish to produce 1 pound of farm raised tuna or salmon. 

Labels like "dolphin friendly" often mean that the fish was caught using a method such as long lining - high in bycatch and detrimental to most other species.

In an ocean where fish populations have been depleted 90% and are continuing to decline, there really is no such thing as sustainable industrial fishing. 


Our task right now is to let life come back to the ocean. The effects of stopping industrial fishing would be enormously beneficial.

We know from places like Cabo Pulmo that fish populations can bounce back quickly when given the chance. Fish play important roles in the functioning of ocean communities. They also sequester carbon and could help stop ocean acidification and climate change if allowed to survive.