Human Crimes Against Animals, Part 24 - Overfishing - Trawling, Longline and Drift Nets
An Animal Rights Article from


Dave Bernazani

Modern commercial factory fishing slaughters huge numbers of marine mammals (dolphins, porpoises, seals, etc.), seabirds, turtles, sharks and other “bycatch”. They may die slowly from ingested hooks, or from getting entangled in nylon mesh nets. Whales also suffer and die from these practices. The fish themselves are being drastically overfished in unsustainable numbers, and experts fear that even if we stopped now, it would be decades before their numbers would even begin to return to normal levels.

These drifting "walls of death" capture untold numbers of dolphins, whales, pelagic birds (birds of the open ocean), sharks and turtles, along with millions of a targeted species of fish. Here we see a drowned albatross and a dead dolphin.

Who’s fighting it: HSUS, IDA, Sea Shepherd,, AWI (Animal Welfare Institute), WWF, Animals Australia, ALV.


The ocean is dying ; of seventeen global fishing “hot spots” like the Grand Banks, sixteen have collapsed beyond repair. There are now only 10% of the fish stocks that there were in 1950.

If this was a pile of puppies or cats, would you feel different?

In the last four decades, the capacity of the world’s fishing fleet has increased fivefold. Over half of it is considered superfluous–that is, threatening to environmental sustainability–according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. This assessment seems conservative, considering the fact that today’s fishermen have increased their fish-finding abilities greatly with the help of sweeping technological advances, such as radar, sonar, satellite positioning systems, longlines and 40-mile-long driftnets. Today, 335-foot freezer trawlers can catch 500,000 pounds of fish in one tow of the net and are able to stay out at sea for months at a time.

Trawling is when massive nets scrape the bottom of the ocean, sucking up everything in their path and damaging fragile ecosystems and coral reefs. It has been compared to “bulldozing a forest to catch tukeys.” An area the size of the United States is scraped clean every year in our oceans.

And aquaculture?

Far from being an answer to wild fish stock depletion, this growing and subsidized innovation often indirectly accelerates the depletion of marine life, according to environmentalists. And while all of this rape of the world’s fish is taking place, prices stay reasonable at the local Red Lobster. U.S. restaurants rely more and more on imported fish because it remains cheap and abundant–for the moment, anyway. Fisheries in foreign countries, however, are less likely to be managed sustainably. The United States imports four times as much seafood as it exports.

Even such entities as Animal Planet and National Geographic channel, who should know better, broadcast shows about “sport” fishing, and say nothing about the drastic declines of fish populations overall.

Isn’t it time we re-thought our killing of the oceans?

Recent progress

The European Union is already pushing to put bluefin tuna on the CITES endangered list, a move being fiercely opposed by fishing industries. Eventually more and more fish species will have to be added to the list if the fishing continues unabated. What will we do then? Humans will finally have to stop eating fish because there simply won’t be any left to eat. I would like to think we are intelligent enough to stop before it’s too late for that… but somehow I doubt it.

Go to Human Crimes Against Animals, Part 25 - Polar and Grizzly Bear and Other Trophy Hunting
Go to Human Crimes Against Animals - Introduction

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