4 ways illegal fishing is affecting our ecosystems

Illegal fishing can deplete fish populations and seriously damage our aquatic ecosystems. While government agencies and fisheries policy makers focus on how to stop illegal fishing, this remains a challenge. As an ethical fisherman, it is important that you learn how to avoid illegal fishing while sharing the message about protecting fishing.

Illegal fishing can affect our aquatic ecosystems in a number of ways, but here are some of the negative effects.

1. Illegal fishing methods can lead to certain species being overfished to the point of almost extinction. Overfishing has a negative impact on biodiversity in the water, as every plant and animal plays a special role in maintaining the balance of an ecosystem. Always check your state’s fishing regulations and adhere to all pocket limits, size restrictions, and legal fishing practices.

2. Bycatch species (untargeted) are often caught unintentionally and improperly released with no chance of survival. Since it is illegal to own species that do not comply with government regulations, recreational anglers should follow proper fishing and release practices so that all bycatch species are safely returned to their natural habitats. Examples of by-catches can be fry or turtles.

3. Illegal fishing methods contribute to the destruction of aquatic habitats or to a high number of by-catches. For example, in the state of Florida, regulations prohibit freshwater wild fish from being caught with a free-floating, unattached device, or with fish or wildlife with guns, explosives, electricity, harpoon, poison, or other chemicals. Some states also prohibit the use of fishing lures or lines with more than three hooks.

4. Abandoned fishing gear and tackle can be destructive as it continues to trap or entangle animals. Jetties are examples of areas where you may see evidence of this. Illegally discarded nets or lines can be wrapped around piers, trapping animals such as fish or birds.

The good news is that you can set an example by learning to fish responsibly, report illegal fishing activities, and make sustainable seafood choices. In fact, the simple purchase of your fishing license will help contribute to government conservation programs such as fisheries management, habitat protection and fisheries education.

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide in southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has been featured in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @ shefishes2.

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