By David Ogilvie



There are so many issues associated with modern fishing practices that it actually makes it difficult to justify the consumption of fish and seafood at all. Globally, the growing human population and seemingly insatiable desire for seafood coming at a great cost. Studies have shown that two-thirds of the world's fish stocks are being fished unsustainably. Many species are disappearing altogether and once thriving fisheries are collapsing.

People who reduce consumption of red meat often opt for fish and seafood as a 'healthy' alternative. The fact is that there is NO evidence implying that fish or seafood is necessary for optimal health. Omega-3 essential fatty acids can be obtained from other sources, and the believed dietary benefits of fish and seafood are questionable when their fat and cholesterol content, and often high levels of heavy metals and other contaminants, are considered.

On this page we outline the current status of fisheries around the world, cover some of the issues surrounding both commercial and recreational fishing, and discuss fish and human health.

Index to this page:
       Fisheries in crisis
       By-catch - an incredible waste
              Case study: Tuna fishing and dolphins
       The impacts of fishing on other animals
       Commercial fishing
              Purse seine nets
              Drift nets
              Longline fishing
              Bottom trawling
                     Technology opens oceans to trawling
                     Trawling destroys vital habitat
                     Recent improvements in design
              Fish Farming
       Recreational fishing
              VNPA research review
              CSIRO Port Phillip Bay Study 1999
       Fish and pain
       Fish and intelligence
       Fish and human health
              Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
              A lot of fat and cholesterol, and no fibre
              Bio-accumulation of toxic chemicals
                     Recent research on mercury in the USA
                     PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)
              Food poisoning risk
       Recent fishing issues (news articles)
       Links of Interest


Fisheries in crisis

Around the world, it is now generally acknowledged that our fisheries are in crisis. It is estimated that 90% of the world’s fisheries are overfished; more than 40% of the world's marine fishery populations are heavily to fully exploited; and 25% over-exploited, depleted or recovering.

The fundamental cause of the crisis is that the oceans' resources are considered infinite and inexhaustible. Deep water, rough water and distant water are no longer obstacles to modern fishing fleets, leaving no natural refuges for fish to escape and replenish.

In the distant past, fish, as a resource, were used at a sustainable rate and people caught only as many fish as they needed. Since the 1970s with the improvements in modern fishing technology, an increase in the number of people fishing, and an increase in global population, the impacts of fishing have been escalating.

Modern fishing fleets use a range of technology including aeroplanes, larger nets, radios, sea-floor maps, and video sonar to locate schools of fish. With improved technology and the introduction of purse seine nets, longline fishing, drift nets and factory trawlers, whole schools of fish are able to be caught easily.

As coastal fisheries have been depleted, developed nations, such as Canada, Japan, the USA and European countries, have improved their long-range fishing fleets to allow their ships to move further afield. Even the once less exploited oceans are now under threat of overfishing. New and previously unfamiliar deepwater species are being taken, and we are also fishing further down the food chain, with the development of pilchard, calamari and seajelly fisheries.

Closer to home, in the deep waters of the Southern Ocean, the orange roughy has also become the victim of overfishing. It was always going to be vulnerable, being a fish that grows slowly and does not breed until it reaches the age of 40 years (they live up to 150 years). This low productivity has made it impossible for orange roughy populations to recover after harvesting. In addition, their congregation around seamounts make them easy targets for trawl operations. Although Australia's orange roughy fishery only began in the 1980s, commercial fishing has reduced stocks by 80%.

Australia has also experienced declines in southern bluefin tuna, southern sharks and gemfish. Of the 100 fisheries described in Australian Fisheries Resources, published in 1993 by the Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, 9 were considered to be overfished, 23 fully or heavily fished, 9 underfished and 59 of unknown status.

By-catch - an incredible waste

Hi-tech fishing fleets not only catch greater numbers of commercial species of fish, but they also collect millions of tonnes of unwanted marine life each year, as well as destroy coral and other sea-floor resources.

By-catch is defined as any catch of species (fish, sharks, marine mammals, dolphins, seals, turtles, sea birds etc.) during fishery operations other than the target species.

  Typical inshore catch including a still living
  Octopus surrounded by catch of fish,
  molluscs and crustaceans on a commercial
  prawn trawler.

By-catch has two components, the non-target species catch that is retained and the non-target species catch that is discarded. By definition, by-catch is pre-determined, while the decision to retain or discard may occur during the catching process, at some time later during the vessel trip, or, at times, on return to port. Unwanted or undersized animals culled from a catch are discarded - thrown back into the sea, dead or dying.

In the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration State of the Coast report (USA), it is estimated that approximately 27 million metric tons (30 million tons) of by-catch are discarded each year in the world's commercial fisheries, compared to a total of about 77 million metric tons (85 million tons) of landed catch. Much less information is available for recreational fisheries. (1)

A shrimping crew culls the by-catch. Gulf of Mexico Commercial marine fisheries in the US alone toss away up to 20 billion pounds of by-catch each year - twice the commercial and recreational catch combined.


Sorting catch and by-catch on a shrimpboat deck. Shrimpers tow nets that collect shrimp, and many other animals in their path. Red snapper, croaker, mackerel, sea trout, spot, drum, and other fishes - up to nine times more than the shrimp catch - are dumped overboard, already dead or dying.

In shrimp trawl fisheries off the southern United States the issue of marine turtle by-catch came to wide public attention relatively recently, largely because of the estimated 48,000 sea turtles caught annually by shrimp fishermen. The US National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that more than 11,000 of these were dying annually. Only after intense pressure from environmental groups was remedial action taken to modify trawl nets in an attempt to exclude turtles from the catch.

Case study: Tuna fishing and dolphins

One of the most notorious and long-standing by-catch issues has been in commercial tuna purse seine fisheries in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) ocean off Mexico and Central America. For unknown reasons, yellowfin tuna in the ETP commonly swim beneath herds of dolphins and other species such as whales and whale sharks as they migrate through the open oceans. Using floating nets in excess of 2,000 meters long, ETP tuna fishing fleets deliberately encircled dolphins, whales or sharks in order to catch the tuna below them.

   Dolphins are unable to
   escape from the nets.

Since 1959, when the US tuna fleet introduced the practice, an estimated seven million dolphins in the ETP tuna fishery perished, of which about five million were from one species - the northern offshore spotted dolphin. Because the fishing fleets were not controlled, many dolphin populations had become severely reduced by the 1970s. Today, dolphin deaths in this fishery are declining because of an international agreement to bring the fleets under control, including a regulation that all tuna purse seine boats fishing in the ETP must carry professional observers.

Much less is known about the numbers of dolphins and other animals captured and killed in the other purse seine tuna fisheries in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This is because it is only in the eastern Pacific where the scientific observers are required on all commercial tuna vessels. Many populations of dolphins, sharks, whales, even endangered sea turtles could be threatened by purse seine fishing operations, but little remedial action can be taken as long as the companies of the global tuna industry are successful in keeping their impact secret.

The impacts of fishing on other animals

Countless birds and other animals suffer, and many die, from injuries caused by swallowing or becoming entangled in discarded fishing hooks, fishing line and lead weights. Even the most conscientious and careful fishers must share the blame, because every sport and recreational fisher eventually loses tackle - fishing line easily snaps when it becomes tangled in tree branches during casting or when hooks get snagged on rocks or logs in the water. And even the smallest amount of lost line can add up to a huge problem for animals.

Fishing tackle can injure animals in a number of ways. Birds who fly into fishing line caught in trees become hopelessly entangled; most will slowly starve to death. Animals who get entangled in line that is on the ground can suffer a similar fate if it catches on rocks or debris. Unfortunately, the more animals struggle, the tighter monofilament line becomes - animals who don't die can suffer severed wings or feet. Other types of tackle can be deadly, too. Birds who swallow hooks can suffer lacerated beaks and throats, and animals can be poisoned by lead sinkers.

Commercial Fishing

Purse seine nets

Purse seines are long walls of netting (up to 1 km long and 300 m deep) framed with floatline and leadline. They are used to encircle entire schools of fish at or near the surface. A drawstring cable is threaded through the bottom of the net. When the cable has pulled the netting tight, enclosing the fish in a pouch, the catch is hauled on board.

The main negative impact of purse seines has been the incidental capture of dolphins, although modifications have been developed which allow dolphins to escape alive. When small pelagic (open sea) purse seines are used with attraction lights, there can be incidental by-catch of small fish, juveniles or endangered species. The increasingly used practice of encircling floating objects, including man-made fish aggregating devices (FADs), increases the capture of small sized and immature fish amassed around such devices.

Drift nets

With nearly invisible filament mesh, enormous drift nets (used in the open ocean) catch and hold fish by the gills. When strung together, large-scale drift nets can sweep almost 60 km, catching everything in their path.

During the peak years of driftnetting in the late 1980s, official estimates pointed to annual death tolls of tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and seals. Up to 750,000 seabirds, as well as millions of non-target fish and sharks were also caught and killed. At that time more than 50,000 kilometres of drift nets were being set in the Pacific Ocean each night.

   Greenpeace diver freeing a sunfish
     caught in Japanese driftnet               

The by-catch problem was so dire that in December 1992 the United Nations banned large-scale driftnetting in international waters, prompted by widespread protest from governments and conservation groups around the world. Until then, no regulations existed to control this indiscriminate and destructive fishing technique. Smaller drift nets (<2.5 km in length) have been used since the ban.

The United States still permits drift net fishing within US waters, and at March 2007 there were over 1300 vessels fishing with drift nets in European waters.

Longline fishing

In the 1980s, longlining became an increasingly popular method of fishing, partly in response to the increasing demand for high-quality, high-value fish destined for the clientele of upmarket restaurants.

  During line setting, longliners set a
  single line up to 150 km long behind
  the boat. Attached to it are literally
  thousands of baited hooks. An
  estimated one billion hooks are set
  annually by the world's longline fleets.

Many nations have fishing vessels engaged in longlining, but the fisheries of particular concern are those targeting southern bluefin tuna and patagonian toothfish.

Seabirds, such as albatross, often scavenge for food behind longlining boats and try to eat the bait from the hooks as they are set behind the boat. Some birds swallow the hooks and are dragged underwater and drown. Until recently, more than 300,000 seabirds were killed this way each year. In fact, twenty-six species of seabird, including seventeen species of albatross, became in danger of extinction because of longlining.
  Thousands of hooks waiting to be
  baited and set astern.

Because of the large number of birds affected, commercial fishing has been identified as the most serious threat to the survival of most albatross species. In Australia, the incidental capture of seabirds on longlines is listed as a Threatening Process under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Act, and many of the seabirds, such as albatross and giant petrels, that fall victim to longlines are listed as endangered or vulnerable.

Many cheap and simple methods for reducing the number of birds caught have been, and are being, developed, and international agreements and regulations have been developed to encourage their use. But many fishing vessels still operate illegally. These Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) vessels, are responsible for killing thousands of seabirds each year.

This haul of dead seabirds (mainly white-chinned petrels) is from one fishing trip by a single fishing vessel.

Bottom trawling

Bottom trawling and other mobile fishing gear have effects on the seabed that resemble forest clearcutting, but affect an even larger area. Trawling crushes, buries, and exposes marine animals on the seabed, destroying habitat by plowing about half the world's continental shelf - roughly 150 times the forest area clearcut - each year.
     - Elliott A. Norse, Ph.D., President, Marine Conservation Biology Institute.

Trawling usually involves dragging a large beam or heavy weights across the ocean floor. These hold the mouth of a large net open while "tickler chains" or roller gear in front of the net scour the ocean bottom, flushing out organisms hidden in the sand. The net then scoops up virtually every living thing in its path. Trawling is so efficient and effective that some biologists have compared it to forest clearfelling.

Because trawling takes place at the bottom of the sea, its effects are largely unseen, but studies have shown that it is having a huge impact on our oceans. Pictures of sea floors after trawling reveal what looks like a paved highway where there was once a thriving ecosystem. And although trawling used to be confined to shallow waters, modern gear allows fleets to drag waters up to two kilometres deep.

       Australia, North West Shelf, water depth about 70 m; first photo taken in an area where
       trawling has not been allowed; second photo taken in an area heavily trawled by pair-trawlers.


Bottom trawling occurs on continental shelves in all the world's oceans. Estimates are that up to 15 million square kilometres of ocean bottoms are now trawled annually. Globally, the total area trawled is 150 times the forest area that is clearfelled each year.

A large portion of the world's trawling fleet drags for shrimp, but it is also a common method to harvest scallops, clams, crabs and bottom-feeding fish.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of trawling is the high rate of incidental catch ("by-catch"), including undersize specimens. This method of fishing is very indiscriminate, scooping up both target and non-target species.

Technology opens oceans to trawling

In the past, trawlers fished in areas that were easy to access, avoiding rough bottoms, more remote areas and the deeper waters. With rapid advances in fishing technologies, including global positioning systems, depth sounders and fish-finding equipment, there are very few places left around the world with commercially valuable fishery resources that have not been trawled or dredged. Targeted species plus many other species caught and killed incidentally, are caught in depths and in areas previously avoided.

New, more powerful fishing equipment, such as rockhopper and streetsweeper trawls, now allow fishing even on rough bottoms, such as rocky reefs, that in the past were free of trawling. Large rollers were added along the bottom edge of the net that allowed hauling over rocky or coral-crusted areas of seabed without snagging. Consequently, bottoms with many "hangs," such as coral reefs, are pulverized or overturned during each tow of the trawl. Until recently, rough bottoms, where fish tend to congregate, had served as de facto refuges from this type of fishing. Fishers were reluctant to risk expensive gear damage, limiting the extent of trawl impacts. Now, few limits remain; trawling can occur almost anywhere.

Trawling destroys vital habitat

Trawling destroys fundamental components of habitat necessary for marine fisheries and other wildlife, eliminating the basic structures many species need to survive.

Recovery of this habitat can take decades. In the short term, trawling re-suspends plumes of sediment, clouding the water and potentially affecting critical natural processes such as photosynthesis and feeding.

The structural complexity of rocky reefs, boulders, cobbles and gravels is necessary for the survival of many marine species, including juvenile fish. Studies show that trawling reduces structural complexity and eliminates nursery habitats. A diverse habitat structure is vital to a wide variety of marine life because it provides surfaces for feeding and hiding places from predators. Natural features provide cover for commercially important species such as cod and lobster, but also for their prey which includes crabs, small crustaceans, marine worms, and sea urchins.

"It's not a sustainable practice to turn the coral to rubble, take the fish and leave," Mark Powell, director of fish conservation for the Ocean Conservancy, states.

A survey of fishermen, scientists and other experts published in May 2003 by the Marine Conservation Biology Institute found consistent agreement that bottom trawling was the most harmful commercial fishing method, with damage to the seabed judged worse than the damage to by-catch.

The report, called "Shifting Gears", online at, noted that 98 percent of marine species lived in, on or just above the sea floor, and are therefore vulnerable to trawling.

According to Dr Sylvia Earle, renowned marine scientist and explorer, deep-sea bottom trawling should have no place in 21st-century ocean use and management. "Bottom trawling is simply not sustainable," she said "The trawl nets are stripping the seabed of life, trashing ancient corals and destroying entire ecosystems. There is much that we are still to learn about life in the oceans. Sadly, much of it will be gone before we get the chance if we don't act now."

Recent improvements in design

Until recently, every innovation was aimed at catching more fish, with little regard for the ecological consequences. That began to change after biologists started tallying the loss of seabed ecosystems crushed by repeated towing and the vast unintended toll of sea turtles and unwanted fish swept into the gaping bags.

Fishermen, too, began to recognise that in capturing fish of all sizes they were undermining the health of the resource.

Since then, under tightening laws, fleets in North American and European waters have begun to shift to designs and practices that curb the by-catch and ecological effects.

For a number of years now the United States has required that trawled shrimp, whether imported or caught in American waters, must only come from nets equipped with special grates called turtle exclusion devices that let shrimp in but divert sea turtles. American shrimp fleets are also increasingly installing grates and escape holes that cut the unwanted fish harvest in shrimp nets.

But it is clear from history and the continuing spread of technology that trawling will be around as long as humans continue to harvest fish in the wild. Improvements in design may reduce ecological damage but will never prevent it entirely.

For that reason, Dr. Callum Roberts, a fisheries scientist at the University of York in Britain, recently urged in a report to the European Union that the only way to continue to trawl and still have something worthwhile catching was to put substantial parts of the oceans off limits.

"Yes, we should have the underwater equivalent of intensive agriculture - the muddy seabed plowed by trawls," Dr. Roberts wrote. "But give us wilderness, too, the nature reserves and national parks." Without them, he concluded, "the seas will become a sorry shadow of their former abundance and the giants that we once hauled from them creatures of imagination alone."

Fish Farming

Fish farming was developed to help alleviate the depletion of wild marine life from overfishing. While aquaculture may be an option for the rearing of some species of fish, there are inherent problems:

Fish farms pollute

Some fish farms raise fish in floating net-pens -- basically, the marine equivalent of 'factory farms'. The intense accumulation of fish wastes and uneaten feed from these operations can spoil the local marine environment and spread disease to wild fish stocks. The wastes also generate bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures.

In addition to natural wastes, there are also antibiotics (more are given to farmed fish than any other livestock by weight) and other drugs that can harm nearshore ecosystems. Antibiotics have created resistant strains of disease that infect both wild and farmed fish. Pesticides given to the fish (e.g. to control sea lice) and toxic copper sulfate used to keep nets free of algae also build up in sea-floor sediments. Daniel Pauly, Professor of Fisheries at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver says "They're like floating pig farms… They consume a tremendous amount of highly concentrated protein pellets and they make a terrific mess."

Farmed fish are not healthy

As well as harming marine ecosystems, the antibiotics, drugs and other chemicals used in fish farming can compromise human health.

In the wild, salmon get a rich, pink hue by absorbing carotenoid from the pink krill they eat, while farmed fish are given a synthetic pigment called canthaxanthin in their feed. Without it, their flesh would be an unappetising, pale grey.

The pharmaceutical company that distributes its trademarked SalmoFan pigment has swatches similar to paint stores, so fish farmers can choose among various shades. European authorities are suspicious of canthaxanthin, which was linked to retinal damage in people when taken as a sunless tanning pill.

Scientists in the United States are far more concerned about two preliminary studies, one in British Columbia and one in Great Britain, that showed farmed salmon accumulate more cancer-causing PCBs and toxic dioxins than wild salmon. The cause appears to be the salmon feed, which contains higher concentrations of fish oil - extracted from sardines, anchovies and other ground-up fish - than wild salmon normally consume. Environmental pollutants, including PCBs and dioxins, make their way into the ocean and are absorbed by marine life. The pollutants accumulate in fat that is distilled into the concentrated fish oil.

Farmed fish aren't cheap

The price per kilogram may seem cheaper, but globally speaking, farmed fish is anything but cheap. The fact is farmed fish represent an overall net loss of protein. According to Rosamond Naylor, an agricultural economist at Stanford's Center for Environmental Science and Policy, it takes about 2.4 kilograms of wild fish to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon.
   Feeding ocean trout at a farm in Macquarie
   Harbour, Tasmania.

"We are not taking strain off wild fisheries. We are adding to it," Naylor says. "This cannot be sustained forever." Factor in the energy expended to catch, process and transport that fishmeal, and "cheap" farmed fish suddenly seem absurdly costly.

Farmed fish can escape

When net pens are damaged (e.g. by storms or seals) there can be large releases of farmed fish. Some species of farmed fish do not naturally occur in the area in which they are farmed, and escapees pose a problem as they may ultimately compete with and displace precarious native stocks. Biologists fear these invaders will out-compete the native stocks, hastening their demise.

Fish farms spread disease

Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the oceans, can run rampant in densely packed fish farms. Clouds of sea lice, incubated by captive fish on farms, can swarm wild salmon as they swim past on their migration to the ocean.

Alexandra Morton, an independent biologist and critic of salmon farms, began examining sea lice in 2001 when a fishermen brought her two baby pink salmon covered with them. Collecting more than 700 baby pink salmon around farms she found that 78% were covered with a fatal load of sea lice, which burrow into fish and feed on skin, mucous and blood. Juvenile salmon she netted farther from the farms were largely lice-free.

Canadian commercial fishermen, initially supportive of salmon farms, have grown increasingly hostile. They were stunned last August when their nets came up nearly empty during the first day of the wild pink salmon season in the Broughton Archipelago at the northeast end of Vancouver Island. "There should have been millions of pinks, but there were fewer than anyone can remember," said Calvin Siider, a salmon gill-netter. "We can't prove that sea lice caused it. But common sense tells you something, if they are covered by sea lice as babies, and they don't come back as adults."

Salmon farmers point out that the sea lice exist in the wild. Their captive fish are unlikely hosts, they say, because at the first sign of an outbreak, they add the pesticide emamectin benzoate to the feed.

Another recent problem has been hematopoietic necrosis, an infectious virus that attacks the kidneys and spleen of fish. More than a dozen farms in British Columbia have been stricken. Jeanine Siemens, manager of a stolt farm, says, "It was really hard for me and the crew" to oversee the killing of 900,000 young salmon last August because of a viral outbreak. "We had a boat pumping dead fish every day," she said. "It took a couple of weeks. But it was the best decision. You are at risk of infecting other farms."


It seems things will get worse before they get better. Recently, the prospect of genetically modified salmon that can grow six times faster than normal fish has heightened anxiety. Aqua Bounty Farms Inc., of Waltham, Massachusetts, is seeking US and Canadian approval to alter genes to produce a growth hormone that could take a year off the usual 2 & 1/2 to 3 years it takes to raise a market-size fish. Commercial fishermen and other critics fear that these "frankenfish" will escape and pose an even greater danger to native species than do the Atlantic salmon. "Nobody can predict just what that means for our wild salmon," Alaska Governor Tony Knowles said. "We do see it as a threat." 

Recreational fishing

Recent estimates have put the number of recreational fishers in Australia as high as 5,000,000, with 800,000 here in Victoria. This high level of activity has a significant economic impact on coastal communities, but there is a growing realisation among fisheries managers that it is also having a major impact on the marine environment.

This is contrary to the perceptions of many recreational fishers who believe that they have only a minor impact (both individually and collectively) on fish stocks and that commercial harvests are the primary cause of actual or perceived fish declines. Neither perception is supported by available studies.

VNPA research review

In a review of available research, carried out for the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) by Dr Mark Norman, a Victorian marine biologist, it has been revealed that recreational fishing removes large amounts of fish from our marine environment, and that recreational fishing pressure is building.

The Norman review confirmed that recreational fisher impact on fish stocks is substantial. In Port Phillip Bay alone, boat-based recreational fishers (excluding shore-based anglers) spend 2.7 million hours each year fishing, catching an estimated 2.7 million fish. Estimates of annual day boat catch by recreational fishers in Port Phillip Bay are 469 tonnes, close to the commercial catch of 482 tonnes (excluding pilchard/sprat harvests). (2)

During a four-month survey in Port Phillip Bay during 1995, commercial harvests were estimated to catch a greater weight of snapper than in the recreational catch (28 tonnes versus 17 tonnes in a four-month survey). However, the smaller size of fish caught by recreational fishers meant that the recreational catch caught more than three times more fish (22,000 versus 7,000 in a four month survey). (3)

A similar scale of recreational fishing occurs in bays in many other Australian states. And for a number of nearshore coastal species the recreational catch is often comparable to, or larger than, commercial catches. In a recent study of the impacts of recreational fishing in Queensland carried out by the Department of Primary Industries Southern Fisheries Centre, it was found that the recreational catches of tailor, yellowfin bream, whiting and dusky flathead were as high or even higher than commercial fisher catches.

Most of the authors of the studies reviewed by Dr Norman recognised that their estimates of numbers of recreational fisher numbers, fishing hours and catches were likely to be significant underestimates as each survey failed to include all components of the recreational catch including activities such as night fishing, shore fishing, charter fishing and catch landed at sites outside survey areas.

The review also found that recreational fishing pressures are growing through increased participation, more efficient gear, increasing access to areas by four-wheel drive vehicles and boats, and higher efficiency in finding fish using technologies such as echo-sounders and geographical positioning systems.

Recreational fishing has a number of other actual or potential impacts that add to the pressure of coastal use. These include mortality of released animals, retention of undersized fish, lost gear, habitat damage, hydrocarbon release by outboard motors and the ecological impacts of fish removals.

CSIRO Port Phillip Bay Study 1999

Research associated with the CSIRO Port Phillip Bay Study (4) has highlighted the impacts of fishing on marine community structure. After comparing trawling surveys in Port Phillip Bay carried out in 1972-75 and 1990-91, accounting for differences in the survey equipment and techniques, and acknowledging the $2 million commercial catch value and the 2.7 million daytime, boat-based angler hours spent on recreational fishing, Hobday et al. concluded that:

Increased fishing pressure is the most likely explanation for declines in several important commercial and recreational species. A consequent decrease in competition may have caused an increase in abundance of stingarees.

The researchers added:

The most conspicuous change in the 10 most abundant species was the decline of those that are often taken by commercial or recreational fishers (sand flathead, tiger flathead and, except in the shallow region, yank flathead) and an increase in species (eastern shovelnose stingaree and sparsely spotted stingaree) that are rarely caught.

Professor Leon Zann, author of the State of the Marine Environment Report, is also concerned about the impacts of recreational fishing:

...the lack of public understanding of the principles of fisheries conservation and management has meant that even today, many do not accept that there is any great urgency for action to conserve fish resources. Most individual fishers do not accept that their own activities require control, and even less that they impact on other fisheries. (5)

Fish and pain

The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals. animal welfare terms, you have to put fishing in the same category as hunting.
     - Dr Donald Broom, Professor of Animal Welfare, Cambridge University.

It is unthinkable that fish do not have pain receptors; they need them in order to survive.
     - Professor Frank Hird, microbiologist, Melbourne University.

While fish cannot always express pain and suffering in ways that humans can easily recognise, biologists and scientists tell us that fish are capable of feeling pain. Fish may not be cute and cuddly like puppies and kittens, but they suffer and experience pain in very much the same way. Fish suffer from being impaled, crushed, or mutilated while alive, and they are often left to die slowly and painfully of suffocation. Their behaviour should be evidence enough of their suffering: their heart rate and breathing rate increases, adrenaline is released, they gasp, struggle, and writhe, endeavouring to escape and, by so doing, also demonstrate they have a will to survive. Scientific studies substantiate these basic realities and, thereby, underscore that suffering is inherent in the catching and killing of fish.

[I]t has been shown that fish (like other vertebrate animals, including humans) have a highly developed system that may help protect them from severe pain - pain which could endanger their lives if they were seriously handicapped by it following some injury to their bodies, such as might be inflicted by a large predator. This system releases natural opiate-like substances (enkephalins and endorphins) once an animal is injured. ... The presence of this pain-dampening opiate system implies that there must be some capacity to experience pain, otherwise there would be little point in animals having evolved such a system in the first place. (6)

In a key 1996 report examining the welfare of farmed fish, the UK Ministry of Agriculture's official advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, noted the following:

'Almost all fish live the whole of their lives in water and show a maximal emergency response when removed from water, even for a very short period. This response includes changes in heart rate, increased production of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol and vigorous muscle contractions...' These changes 'often indicate fear in the fish... All of the scientific evidence concerning such effects makes it clear that the term stress is certainly relevant to fish and that the means by which stress effects are mediated are very similar to those in mammals. Evidence that the term pain is applicable to fish comes from anatomical, physiological and behavioural studies whose results are very similar to those of studies on birds and mammals. The fact that fish are cold blooded does not prevent them from having a pain system and, indeed, such a system is valuable in preserving life and maximising the biological fitness of individuals. The receptor cells, neuronal pathways and specialised transmitter substances in the pain system are very similar in fish to those in mammals.' (7)

Fish and intelligence

Fish generally have a reputation of being the instinct-driven 'dimwits' of the animal kingdom. A group of British scientists has recently concluded, however, that fish are actually cunning, manipulative, cultured and socially aware.

The three scientists, who work with the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrew's in Scotland, and the University of Leeds, said conceptions of the psychological and mental abilities of fish had undergone a "sea change" in the past few years.

The biologists wrote in the journal Fish and Fisheries: "Gone (or at least obsolete) is the image of fish as drudging and dimwitted pea brains, driven largely by 'instinct', with what little behavioural flexibility they possess being severely hampered by an infamous 'three-second memory'.

"Now fish are regarded as steeped in social intelligence, pursuing Machiavellian strategies of manipulation, punishment and reconciliation, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and cooperating to inspect predators and catch food."

Recent research has shown that fish not only recognise individual 'shoal mates' but monitored the social prestige of others, and tracked relationships.

They had also been observed using tools, building complex nests and bowers, and exhibiting impressive long-term memories.

The scientists added: "Although it may seem extraordinary to those comfortably used to pre-judging animal intelligence on the basis of brain volume, in some cognitive domains, fishes can even be favourably compared to non-human primates."

They said that there were 27,000 known species of fish, and that there had been "ample time" for fish to evolve complex, adaptable and diverse behaviour patterns that rivalled those of other vertebrates.

"These developments warrant a re-appraisal of the behavioural flexibility of fishes and highlight the need for a understanding of the learning processes that underpin the newly recognised behavioural and social sophistication of this taxon," said the scientists. (8)

Fish and human health

Many people who eat fish and seafood believe that doing so is healthy. According to an August 1997 survey of 10,000 households in the US, commissioned by the National Fisheries Institute, more than half the respondents cited health benefits among their top reasons for eating fish and seafood. More than three-quarters believed consuming fish to be healthier than eating beef, pork or poultry. And most believed the quality of the seafood they had eaten was good. But the widely held public perception of seafood as health food is simply one whopper of a fish story!

The facts:

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

There is no question that Omega-3 fatty acids are important in the human diet, and no-one disputes that they are found in fish oils, mainly those from cold water fatty fish. Many people are not aware, however, that flaxseed (linseed) oil contains nearly twice as much Omega-3, contains no cholesterol, is lower in saturated fat, and does not contain the often high levels of toxic chemicals, such as mercury, that can bio-accumulate in fish. A study published in the November 2002 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine showed mercury levels to be directly associated with the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and that high mercury content may diminish the cardioprotective effects of Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish. (9) So in actual fact, flaxseed is a preferable source of Omega 3, particularly for people trying to reduce their cholesterol intake. (For more information refer to our nutritional article on Omega-3 fatty acids.)

A lot of fat and cholesterol, and no fibre

Fish and seafood generally contain excessive amounts of fat and cholesterol, with no fibre. Many people say they eat fish rather than beef in hopes of limiting fat and cholesterol. However, many fish, such as shark, catfish, swordfish, and sea trout, contain almost one-third fat, while salmon and orange roughy contain over 50%. Regarding cholesterol, prawns have double that of beef, and a three ounce serving of salmon, for example, contains 74 milligrams of cholesterol, about the same as in a comparable serving of T-bone steak or chicken.

Fish also contains significant amounts of protein, which may be okay if your diet is low in protein, but the average person on a Western diet already consumes roughly twice as much protein as is recommended. Excess dietary protein is not a risk-free indulgence; it has been linked to obesity, kidney disease and osteoporosis.

Bio-accumulation of toxic chemicals

Think about where fish and shellfish live. Everything from human waste to industrial waste ends up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Consequently, fish and shellfish can accumulate extremely high levels of toxins and chemical residues in their flesh due to "bio-accumulation". Big fish eat little fish and the bigger the fish (e.g. tuna and salmon), the longer the food chain, and the greater the bio-accumulation. Concentrations of toxins can be as high as nine million times those found in the waters in which fish and shellfish live. Shellfish also contain high levels of toxins because of their filter-feeding habits.

Fish may be loaded with mercury, lead, and industrial pollutants like PCBs (Poly-Chlorinated Biphenyls), DDT and dioxins. These chemicals have been linked to kidney damage, cancers, nervous disorders, impaired mental development, foetal damage, and many other health problems. And when nursing mothers eat fish, not only do they expose themselves to these contaminants, they also pass half of the toxins that they consume along to their babies.

These days, it is very difficult to find a piece of fish that hasn't been exposed to some contamination.


Mercury is a naturally occurring element that makes its way into the environment from power generation and through industrial pollution. Rain washes it into waterways, where it settles and is eaten by microorganisms, which are in turn eaten by fish.

In the US, mercury levels in the environment have been increasing at a rate of 1.5% each year since 1970. And in at least forty states, mercury contamination has reached such high levels that state officials are advising residents to limit their consumption of fish from their entire state, or from one or more bodies of water within their state.

Mercury is very hazardous for humans and eating fish contaminated with mercury can result in serious health problems, including heart disease and damage to the brain and nervous system. This is of particular concern to growing children and pregnant women. Complicating this issue is that scientists are not certain how much mercury-tainted fish is needed to trigger health problems.

A recent report by the Research Institute of Public Health in Finland shows a significant increase of heart disease in men with elevated mercury levels. (9) Since seafood in the diet is the main source of human mercury exposure, men eating swordfish, shark, and tuna high in mercury may unknowingly be increasing their risk of an early death.

Recent research on mercury in the USA

Recent research in the US, presented by Dr Jane Hightower at a symposium of environmental health experts in Vermont, is one of the first studies to document mercury levels in Americans who eat more fish than the Environmental Protection Agency recommends.

Hightower screened 720 people from March 2000 to March 2001, then tested the mercury levels of those who reported eating more than two servings of fish a week. That's the maximum the EPA recommends for pregnant women and small children.

The tests showed that of 116 people who had their blood tested, 89% showed mercury levels greater than the 5 parts per million recognized as safe by the National Academy of Sciences. Of that group, 63 people had blood mercury levels more than twice the recommended level and 19 showed blood mercury levels four times the level considered safe. Four people had mercury levels 10 times as high as the government recommends.

About 78% of those surveyed with high mercury levels reported eating canned tuna more than three times a month; 74% ate salmon more than four times a month; and 72% said they had swordfish more than once a month. Other fish commonly eaten by respondents included halibut, ahi, sea bass and sushi.

PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)

PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls), once widely used for industrial purposes but outlawed as carcinogenic in 1976, can also be found in fish due to environmental contamination. According to a six-month investigation by the Consumers Union in the US (publishers of Consumer Reports magazine), "By far the biggest source of PCBs in the human diet is fish... As PCBs linger in the environment, their composition changes, and they gradually become more toxic... And these more toxic forms are likely to be found in fish... PCBs accumulate in body tissue. The PCBs that you eat today will be with you decades into the future." (10)

Food poisoning risk

The risk of food poisoning from eating fish and seafood is far greater than that from eating beef, pork or poultry. This is because fish and the bacteria living on them flourish in the kind of temperatures found in refrigerators. Trimethylamine is the chemical that produces the 'fishy' smell we all recognise. What many people don't realise is that this odour is produced when fish begins to spoil. Fish oils decompose quickly and in the process unleash free radicals, which are linked to cell damage. Free radicals are believed to be a first important step in heart disease, cancer and the ageing process. Also, as much as 10% of raw shellfish, while appearing perfectly fresh, are infected with organisms that can cause hepatitis, salmonella poisoning or cholera.

So there is little wonder that the Center for Disease Control in the US reports an average of 325,000 food poisonings annually from contaminated seafood. In fact, this figure may severely undercount the true number of poisonings since many sufferers attribute their flu-like symptoms to something other than contaminated seafood.

With so many Americans sickened by contaminated seafood each year, the Food and Drug Administration has implemented a seafood inspection program to deal with tainted fish. The FDA's new Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan aims to limit bacterial contamination by looking at selected points in fish processing plants, where contamination is most likely to occur. But, neither this plan nor any other will actually test whether the fish anyone buys at a store is loaded with disease-causing bacteria, mercury, or anything else. Government inspectors will not routinely use the sophisticated tests that could reveal the contaminants. One hopes that the regulations may at least prevent some food poisonings caused by the improper handling of fish and shellfish.


Recent fishing issues (news articles):

World is running out of places to catch wild fish, study finds (The Washington Post, 2 December 2010)
Global fisheries have expanded so rapidly over the past half-century that the world is running out of places to catch wild fish, according to a study conducted by researchers in Canada, the United States and Australia... Looking at fleets' movements between 1950 and 2005, the five researchers charted how fishing has been expanding southward into less exploited seas at roughly one degree latitude each year to compensate for the fact that humans have depleted fish stocks closer to shore in the Northern Hemisphere.

UN official warns on fisheries losses (BBC, 21 May 2010)
The UN's top environment official has echoed warnings that commercial fishing could be destroyed within 50 years.
"It is not a science fiction scenario. It is within the lifetime of a child born today," said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme (Unep).
He made the remarks at a conference in New York previewing a new study on how to make the global economy more environmentally sustainable.
His colleague, Dr Pavan Sukhdev, said if current fishing practices continued, "then we are in a situation where 30 or 40 years down the line we effectively are out of fish".

UK Study Shows 94 Percent Fish Stock Fall Since 1889 (Planet Ark, 5 May 2010)
British fish stocks have dropped by 94 percent in the past 118 years and commercial fishing has profoundly changed seabed ecosystems, leading to a collapse in numbers of many species, scientists said on Tuesday.
The dramatic decline means fisherman working today land only a fraction of the fish caught by their predecessors 100 years ago, when the British fleet brought in four times more fish, according to a study by researchers at the University of York.
Analysing historical fish landing statistics dating back to 1889, the researchers found the industrialization of fishing had led to relentless exploitation of stocks - particularly species such as cod, haddock and plaice which are popular on British dinner plates - and fishing laws such as the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) had failed to stem the decline...

86 per cent of dolphins and whales threatened by fishing nets (, 7 February 2010)
A new report from the United Nations Environment Program finds that almost 9 out of 10 toothed whales - including dolphins and porpoises - are threatened by entanglement and subsequent drowning from large-scale fishing operations equipment, such as gillnets, traps, longlines, and trawls. These operations threaten the highest percentage (86 per cent) of the world's toothed whales. Lack of food and changes in diets due to overfishing by humans currently threatens 13 species, while 14 species are threatened by collisions with ships. The ingestion of plastic and other pollutants have been reported in a total of 48 species. Currently six species are considered on the edge of extinction. The most threatened is the vaquita with only 100-150 individuals left in the Bay of California. The baiji, once abundant in the Yangtze River, is considered extinct.

Saving Fish is Possible, Unless They’re Past the Tipping Point (Wired Science, 30 July 2009)
Just a few years after scientists warned of impending ocean apocalypse, a handful of simple management tools have pulled some of Earth’s fisheries back from the edge of collapse, according to a review of global fish populations and catch data.
But though the big picture is brighter than before, many of the details remain dark. Some scientists say certain populations may hit “tipping points” beyond which recovery is practically impossible.
“In most cases, when you reduce fishing pressure enough, the stock rebounds. But there’s a breaking point beyond which the system has changed so much that it may not recover,” said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Canada’s Dalhousie University. “The longer you wait to fix a situation, the harder it becomes.”
“Some populations that we’ve tried to rebuild haven’t recovered at the rate we expected. It’s not necessarily the case that we can rebuild all these populations,” said Ellen Pikitch, a marine conservation biologist at Stony Brook University who was not involved in the study. “We don’t know where that threshold lies for most species on the planet. But we do know that if you push a population too hard, you can’t expect it to come back.”
The best example of this comes from the Northeast Atlantic cod fishery. By the mid-20th century, populations of the fish - an economic mainstay, supporting more than 50,000 fishermen - had fallen to dangerously low levels. Fishing was restricted, and the cod quickly recovered. But in the early 1990s, the population collapsed. And today, in the near-absence of fishing pressure, the cod have failed to return. Some researchers think they’ll go extinct within 20 years, no matter what’s done to save them.
It’s not known why cod recovered before and not now. It’s possible their numbers fell below some critical density needed to find mates at a population-sustaining rate. Other fish may be eating their young. Another species could have taken over their ecological niche.
Even more worrisome is the possibility that tipping one fish species will set off a chain of reactions that causes an entire ecosystem to flip from one state to another. Known as a critical regime shift, this phenomenon has only recently been described by ecologists, who are now trying to understand it. The shifts involve interactions between multiple species, and are almost impossible to predict.
In the coral reef ecosystem of the Caribbean, for example, overfishing of algae-eating reef fish allowed algae-eating sea urchin populations to explode. The reefs themselves remained healthy, but when a disease destroyed the urchins, algae soon dominated. It choked out the coral, and the reef system collapsed.
Another overfishing-linked shift may be happening in the Sea of Japan, now inundated by giant, poisonous jellyfish. Overfishing removed their predators. Commercial fishing has suffered, and Japanese fishermen are now trying to market what was once considered an unpalatable goo.
“Once I was talking about eating our way down marine food webs with Daniel Pauly” - director of the University of British Columbia’s fisheries center - “and he said, ‘One day we’ll be eating jellyfish.’ It was meant to be a joke,” said Pikitch. “Then we started seeing jellyfish in stores.”

Study: No major role for fish in prevention of heart failure (Fars News Agency, 11 October 2009)
A two-decade-long study in Rotterdam has indicated that despite common beliefs, consumption of fish plays no major role in the prevention of heart failure. Results from a large prospective population study, which was started in 1990 and involved all men and women over the age of 55 living in a suburb of Rotterdam, found no difference in the risk of developing heart failure between those who did eat fish and those who didn't. The study is in the October issue of the European Journal of Heart Failure. Even for a high daily fish consumption of more than 20 grams a day there appeared no added protection against heart failure.

Scientists fearful for fish stocks (The Age, 26 September 2009)
At a time of crashing wild fish stocks and wary consumers, a blue tick on a seafood label is becoming sales gold.
Australians can find the Marine Stewardship Council's tick for sustainable fishing on a tin of John West's Alaska pink salmon, or a yellow-eyed mullet lunch in the upmarket restaurant, Rockpool.
Globally, MSC-approved fisheries already catch more than 5 million tonnes of seafood. Such is its success that, with 50 fisheries certified, another 100 are in assessment.
But attempts by industrial fishers to get MSC approval of some of the last unexploited fisheries have led scientists to question the way the tick is awarded. They say certification may encourage fisheries depletion.
Alarmed by plans to certify Antarctic fisheries, the British fisheries science doyen, Sidney Holt, told The Age: ''The MSC, which started as a good idea, has become a danger to conservation and sustainable management.''
Another global authority on fish stocks, Daniel Pauly, is worried by a plan to seek certification for the keystone fish, Peruvian anchovy, to be used for fishmeal. Dr Pauly wrote recently: ''The MSC is making a mistake. The issue is not whether the fishery is well managed, but what we do with the fish.''
Our consumption of fish is this year expected to reach a tipping point, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. Such is the loss of wild fish that more than half of what we eat will come from aquaculture for the first time.
The eminent American marine scientist Sylvia Earle said that about 90 per cent of big predatory fish in the sea - marlin, swordfish and sharks - had gone. High-priced tunas such as southern bluefin are also down to 10 per cent of their original numbers.

Farmed Fish May Pose Risk For Mad Cow Disease (kypost, 15 June 2009)
University of Louisville neurologist Robert P. Friedland, M.D., questions the safety of eating farmed fish in today’s Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, adding a new worry to concerns about the nation’s food supply. 
Friedland and his co-authors suggest farmed fish could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease - commonly known as mad cow disease - if they are fed byproducts rendered from cows. The scientists urge government regulators to ban feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish until the safety of this common practice can be confirmed.
"We have not proven that it’s possible for fish to transmit the disease to humans. Still, we believe that out of reasonable caution for public health, the practice of feeding rendered cows to fish should be prohibited," Friedland said. "Fish do very well in the seas without eating cows," he added.
The risk of transmission of BSE to humans who eat farmed fish would appear to be low because of perceived barriers between species. But, according to the authors, it is possible for a disease to be spread by eating a carrier that is not infected itself. It’s also possible that eating diseased cow parts could cause fish to experience a pathological change that allows the infection to be passed between the two species.

Fishery closed to protect endangered sea turtles (Environment News Network, 30 April 2009)
The [U.S.] National Marine Fisheries Service has ordered a six-month emergency closure of the bottom longline fishery in the Gulf of Mexico to protect imperiled sea turtles from capture and death. During the closure, which [went] into effect May 16, the agency will determine whether and how the fishery can operate while ensuring the survival of the turtles over the long term. "After years of delay and the death of hundreds of turtles, it's great to know that protections are finally on their way," said Sierra Weaver, an attorney with Defenders of Wildlife. "This closure will insure that the fishery can operate without threatening these species with extinction." Bottom longline fishing is a fishing process that uses hundreds or even thousands of baited hooks along miles of lines laid behind fishing vessels and stretching down to the reef and Gulf floor.

Crabs 'feel and remember pain' suggests new study (CNN, 27 March 2009)
New research suggests that crabs not only suffer pain but that they retain a memory of it. The study, which was carried out by Professor Bob Elwood and Mirjam Appel from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's University, Belfast, looked at the reactions of hermit crabs to small electric shocks. It was published in the journal Animal Behaviour.
Professor Elwood, whose previous work showed that prawns endure pain, said his research highlighted the need to investigate the treatment of crustaceans [including crabs, prawns and lobsters] used in food industries.
Hermit crabs have no shell of their own so inhabit other structures, usually empty mollusc shells. 
In the research, wires were attached to shells to deliver the small shocks to the abdomen of some of the crabs within the shells. The only crabs to get out of their shells were those which had received shocks, indicating that the experience is unpleasant for them.

Fish Consumption Guidelines Not Environmentally Sustainable, Canadian Experts Say (Science Daily, 19 March 2009)
Recommendations to increase fish consumption because of health benefits may not be environmentally sustainable and more research is needed to clarify the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, write Dr. David Jenkins of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and coauthors in an analysis in Canadian Medical Association Journal
The authors point out that even at current fish consumption levels, global fisheries are in severe crisis as demand outstrips supply and declining stocks are being diverted from local markets to affluent markets, with serious consequences for the food security of poorer countries and coastal communities. Global stocks have been declining since the late 1980s and there have been more than 100 cases of marine extinctions.
"These trends imply the collapse of all commercially exploited stocks by mid-century," state the authors. "Yet the dire status of fisheries resources is largely unrecognized by the public, who are both encouraged to eat more fish and are misled into believing we live in a sea of plenty."

Growing Taste for Reef Fish Sends Their Numbers Sinking (New York Times, 19 January 2009)
The fierce appetite for live reef fish across Southeast Asia - and increasingly in mainland China - is devastating populations in the Coral Triangle, a protected marine region home to the world's richest ocean diversity, according to a recent report in the scientific journal Conservation Biology. Spawning of reef fish in this area, which supports 75 percent of all known coral species in the world, has declined 79 percent over the past 5 to 20 years, depending on location, according to the report.
Overfishing in general, and particularly of spawning aggregations that occur when certain species of reef fish gather in one place in great numbers to reproduce, may be the culprit, says Yvonne Sadovy, a biologist at the University of Hong Kong who wrote the report along with scientists from Australia, Hong Kong, Palau and the United States.

Links of Interest:

Habitat Media (USA)
Habitat Media's mission is to encourage citizen, consumer and industry involvement in conservation efforts and sustainable development. It was formed as a multi-media group in 1999 specifically to produce television documentaries and other educational components that complement these programs. Several of Habitat Media's productions have encouraged consumer awareness as a positive market incentive for changing the way fisheries operate. Habitat Media has also provided footage for breaking stories on marine conservation issues to television and cable networks.
Productions include:
- Empty Oceans, Empty Nets:  the first program in a series of two 60-minute television documentaries that
  examine the global marine fisheries crisis and efforts to implement sustainable fishing practices.
- Farming the Seas: the sequel to Empty Oceans, Empty Nets, is another one-hour documentary exploring
  the problems and potentials of raising various species of fish and shellfish. Can marine aquaculture take
  pressure off the oceans, or does it result in a net loss of marine resources? The Habitat crew travels
  around the world to document new endeavours to meet the ever-growing demand for seafood.
- The Seafood Story: a 15-minute educational resource video for use in marine aquaria and schools. The
  film provides and overview of the global fisheries crisis and an introduction to new initiatives that give
  consumers and citizens a powerful vote on how oceans are fished.


References (Footnotes):

1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (1998) (on-line). Ecological Effects of
  Fishing by Brown, S., Auster, P. J., Lauck, L. & Coyne, M. NOAA's State of the Coast Report. Silver
   Spring, MD.  

2  Coutin, P., Conron, S. & MacDonald, M. (1995). The daytime recreational fishery in Port Phillip Bay
, Victorian Fisheries Research Institute, Department of Conservation and Natural
    Resources, Queenscliff.

3  Conron, S. & Coutin, P. (1998). The recreational snapper catch from Port Phillip Bay: a pilot survey
    of the boat-based fishery 1994/1995,
Marine and Freshwater Institute, Internal Report No. 11,
    MAFRI, Queenscliff.

4  Hobday, D., Officer, R. & Parry, G. (1999). Changes to demersal fish communities in Port Phillip Bay,
    Australia, over two decades 1970-1991. Mar. Freshwater Res., Vol. 50, pp.397-407.

5  Zann, L.P. (1995). Our sea, our future: The State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia.
Department of Environment, Sport and Territories, Commonwealth of Australia.

6  Fox, Michael W., D.V.M., Ph.D. (1987). Do Fish Have Feelings?, The Animals' Agenda, July/August,
    pp. 24-29.

7  Farm Animal Welfare Council (1996). Report on the Welfare of Farmed Fish. Ministry of Agriculture,
    United Kingdom.

The Northern Star newspaper, Lismore, 3/9/2003.

9  The study can be downloaded from

10  Consumers Union (1992). Is Our Fish Fit to Eat?, Consumer Reports, February.

References (General):

Australian Conservation Foundation (2002). Trawling the options, Habitat Australia, October, Vol. 30, No. 5.

Fishing – What’s wrong with it?
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Ocean Resources. Case study by Kim Kerr
Longman Atlas Companion Website

Save the Albatross
Birdlife International

Seabird by-catch - Ending the slaughter
Media Release (25 January 1998)
Senator Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Trawling the seas at what cost? Scraping bottom
An information packet on bottom trawling
American Oceans Campaign

The Fish Business
Animal Aid UK

Marine Campaign
Victorian National Parks Association

Script of "Ocean Planet," a 1995 Smithsonian Institution travelling exhibition
Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) Project

The incidental killing and capture of marine wildlife

References (Fish Farming):

Fish Farms Become Feedlots of the Sea
By Kenneth Weiss, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times - December 12, 2002

When it Comes to Salmon, Buy Wild
Sierra Club

References (Fish and your Health):

Fish: What's the Catch?

The Fish Business
Animal Aid

Dangerous Foods
Dr Jay Gordon

Report Finds Forty States Advise Limited Fish Consumption Due to Mercury Contamination
Common Dreams News Centre
Media Release (3 February 1999)

The One That Got Away: New Seafood Regulations Come Up Short
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)

Poisons and Breast-Feeding
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)