Marine fish in the EU: caught, killed and thrown away


Marine fish in the EU: caught, killed and thrown away

10 February 2022

Devastated seabeds, disturbed ecosystems, animals that perish as “bycatch” – research by Report Mainz shows disturbing absence of animal welfare in fishing industry.

The Animal Rights Organisation ‘Soko Tierschutz’ conducted an investigation over five days on two trawlers in the English Channel and North Sea. The seafarers fished for sole every three hours, but the investigation uncovered the alarming rate at which unwanted species - young sharks, rays, plaice and crustaceans, are also fished as ‘bycatch’.

Sharkproject estimates that around ten times the amount of bycatch is taken out compared to the fish that can be sold. Commenting on the investigation footage, Iris Ziegler, Sharkproject Fisheries Expert, told Report Mainz, “None of these animals that have been treated like this will survive. But if you look at these masses, they can estimate how much life is senselessly extracted from our seas every day. And that takes its toll on the ecosystem.”

The investigation footage portrays disturbing scenes on a fishing boat in Normandy, where fish are sorted, die of asphyxiation or are sliced open and gutted without stunning and then are thrown back into the sea as a dead mass. 

The footage also highlights the impact of the bottom trawling fishing method. Bottom trawling is a fishing practice that herds and captures the target species by towing a net along the ocean floor that carries welfare concerns as the target species can be injured and crushed in the process, but also large catches of non-target species are common and it can have a destructive impact on the seabed fauna. 

Report Mainz confronted the European Commission with the findings, to which the Commission referred to the ‘landing obligation’ that was introduced on 1 January 2019 whereby Member States are obliged to enforce that all caught fish are landed and not discarded.

On fish welfare, the European Commission replied, "We cannot say too much about animal welfare in fishing. This is not regulated at EU level. However, we have identified animal welfare in this area as a key area for the future. We need to take action especially in the area of transport and slaughter of animals."