The crew of the Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, has captured distressing footage of the devastating impacts of by-catch.
The footage, which shows sharks being caught, hauled and discarded back into the ocean, was filmed by the Sea Shepherd crew on a recent patrol of the waters of the Republic of Gabon in central-west Africa.
The Bob Barker has been conducting patrols in the region since April as a part of Operation Albacore; a new campaign to tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, under the direction of the Government of Gabon.
Of the total global catch of Atlantic tuna, 20% is caught in Gabon’s Exclusive Economic Zone, primarily by large industrial purse seine fishing operators.
This method of fishing involves a net being deployed around an entire area or school of fish. The lead line of the net is then pulled in, "pursing" the net closed on the bottom, preventing fish from escaping by swimming downward.
Often, non-target species such as sharks, dolphins, rays and turtles also become trapped in the nets. These unwanted species are known as by-catch.
If the animals survive the stress of the encounter and the weight of the surrounding fish as they are hauled on to deck, they are released back into the ocean. However, many die and are subsequently discarded as waste.
Through monitoring and documentation, Sea Shepherd is assisting Gabonese authorities in their efforts to mitigate incidental mortality and serious injury caused as a result of by-catch.
“By-catch is a major contributor to overfishing globally, and has devastating impacts on the world’s oceans,” said Operation Albacore Campaign Leader, Captain Peter Hammarstedt. “We commend the Government of Gabon for tackling this issue, head-on and are honoured to be able to assist in their efforts to improve monitoring and enforcement in Gabonese waters,” he concluded.