500 Tons of Squid Caught By Mistake in a Week. That's a Problem.

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 1:39 PM EDT

AP has word of a deal reached between the government and Bering Sea fishermen to reduce the quantity of squid they catch "incidentally" in pursuit of pollock, a bland white fish that goes in sandwiches and fish sticks. In early July, fishermen caught more than 500 tons of squid in a week. (This number is four times what might be expected; it's unclear why there are so many squid in the area this year.) The deal requires that fishermen avoid a 500-square-mile area where most of the squid were found and imposes fines on violators.

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Fish and other marine life caught "incidentally" in the pursuit of another species (such as the seal in this photo) are known as "bycatch." As we reported in our recent special issue on the fate of the oceans, it's a massive problem. According to the U.N., one in four animals caught in fishing gear dies as bycatch, meaning that each year millions of animals are killed, which obviously affects the sustainability of fisheries.

On the bright side, in this particular case squid bycatch plummeted from almost 550 tons in the first week of July to only about four tons last week, according to AP.

By the way, the the U.S. Senate has approved a package to renew the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the fundamental rules for ocean fish catching (which includes provisions relating to bycatch). The House, however, is dallying, and is considering a bill sponsored by Richard Pombo (aka Ocean-Enemy Number One). Pombo's bill, to quote today's San Francisco Chronicle, is "riddled with loopholes," and "mocks the problem" of ocean resources management.