If you talk to any environmentalist long enough, you are sure to get a warning about how food is going to run out. There is a growing concern that between the increasing demand for food caused by a growing population, combined with a decreasing supply of food caused by a loss of arable land through sprawl, as well as the loss of pollinators, the increasingly severe weather from climate change, and decreasing fish stocks, it may not be long before we no longer have enough food to go around.
In many countries where agriculture is difficult due to regional climate and other factors, fish is often a main staple in the diet of that region. Here in the USA, although we typically eat around 20 kilograms of fish a year, that is still not a major component of our diet. Most of the fish consumed in the US either comes from the ocean or commercial fish farms. But we have a vast and relatively untapped resource of fish in our freshwater lakes and rivers that can help supplement our diets and make up some of the shortfall in food. But to tap this resource, we need to do it in a much more eco-friendly manner than we have with other resources in the past.
To fish in a more eco-friendly manner, take a ten-step approach to eco-fishing:
1. Pack out everything you pack in, and more… trash that is. Trash, specifically plastic or Styrofoam trash is clogging our lakes. It doesn’t take long to find a Styrofoam cooler lid that flew off someone else’s cooler while they were motoring along… or bait can lid, or a wrapper of some kind. So the number one rule of eco-fishing is to take out at least one piece of trash that wasn’t yours. It’s not hard and you’ll leave the lake, or ocean a better place for it.
2. Only keep fish from invasive or overpopulated species. Many lakes in the USA are overpopulated by certain types of fish which causes the stunting of growth of all species of fish. Most commonly this will be Bluegill. Also invasive species of fish such as regular Carp, Drum, or that new Asian Silver Carp. These fish have no natural predators in the area and consume so much of the waterway’s food that native fish are often displaced.
3. Use every part of the fish you keep. This doesn’t mean you have to learn how to make sewing needles out of the bones, but if you’re not going to eat it, bury it in the garden. Decomposing fish give off vital nutrients that plants just love, so unless you have dogs in the area, don’t even worry about burying them more than a foot deep. You want them to be shallow enough for the plant roots of whatever is planted over them to reach the remains. Then you won’t have to worry about amending the soil they are buried under with nutrients for about 5 years.
4. If you use a boat make sure it’s properly maintained so that you’re not dumping any gas or oil overboard.
5. Use 100% lead-free tackle.
6. Make sure you’re not spreading aquatic nuisance species. Clean all your equipment and avoid live bait.
7. Try biodegradable baits instead of plastic or live bait.
8. Use a biodegradable alternative to mono-filament fishing line.
9. Check with your local fish and game to learn which species are protected/endangered and make sure you are prepared to release those species unharmed.
10. Make sure you know how to properly catch and release a fish without harming it (if you don’t intend eating it).
If we are all mindful enough to remember these steps then we’ll leave our waterways healthier, we’ll have some delicious extra food, and we’ll have fun with the whole family.
Source (modified/edited): Green Earth Friend
Recreational fishing and subsistence fishing are sustainable activities if a conservation-minded approach is taken. Only take out indigenous species if their numbers are sufficient and only numbers that you and your family can eat. The days of catching and killing large numbers of fish purely for sport should be long gone. Exotic fish species should be removed from waters where they are threatening the balance of local aquatic ecosystems. However, there are situations where exotic species provide a valuable food source for both humans and other animals. For example, kapenta ‘sardines’ originally airlifted from Lake Tanganyika to Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe/Zambia, 1967 (‘Lake’ Kariba is technically a dam- man-made). In many cases, exotic fish are thriving in man-made environments such as dams where there were no other indigenous species in the first place. Catch and release sport fishing is growing in popularity. Wherever possible, use barb-less hooks for delicate fish species and use reasonable breaking-strain fishing line (this reduces fighting time and the fish is less exhausted when it’s released). Even if you intend keeping fish for eating, the less time you play it on the line, the better eating it will be (as in most sentient animals, stress causes lactic acid build-up in the muscles and other physiological changes- this can impair the flavour & quality of the flesh). Once landed, the fish should be killed and gutted immediately. Letting a fish flap around out of the water until it dies not only will result in sub-standard table fare but it’s downright cruel! Be aware of the potential of polluted fishing waters; many pollutants are readily assimilated by fish (see Using Fish as Bio-indicators of Water Pollution) and couldbe unsafe to eat. An example of a highly contaminated river is the Olifant’s River in South Africa which flows through many pristine natural areas such as the Kruger National Park. The Olifant’s River is polluted by industries and agricultural runoff upstream which has resulted in huge die-offs of crocodiles. Pollution of rivers and waterways is sometimes intentional, many times unintentional but almost always preventable. Businesses and homeowners can ensure that unintentional pollution of rivers is prevented by making use of water systems such as greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting. Grey water forms the bulk of the load on sewage treatment plants which can result in overcapacity problems. Remove most of the gray water and the sewage works will cope and be able to treat effluent to acceptably safe standards (much of the treated effluent is returned to waterways). Rooftop rainwater harvestingreduces stormwater runoff which also prevents contaminated water from entering river systems (see the reasons explained in Reduce Stormwater Runoff). This will save money on your water bills too (and rain water tanks can ensure a clean water supply in times of water emergencies that will become more prevalent).