Blog Fisheries

Seaspiracy: Your Questions Answered

April 1, 2021

Some of our supporters have asked for our reaction about the diverse problems the Netflix documentary raises and what we’re doing about them. As Australia’s only marine focused charity, the Australian Marine Conservation Society has been speaking up for our oceans for more than 55 years, and so we welcome this conversation. 

We briefly address some of these questions below and in our campaign information on this site, which also highlights how you can help. If you want to know more, please contact us.

Is sustainable seafood possible?

For many people, choosing not to eat seafood is a practical action they can take to ensure their money doesn’t support the damage commercial fishing can cause. Many Australians still choose to eat fish, and our GoodFish program is intended to help people make better choices by using the available science to assess the sustainability of commercial fishing and farmed seafood.

A number of different species from around the country are listed as Green “Better Choice” on our GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide. We set an incredibly high standard for a Green listing in our GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide – it is our commitment to you that choosing Green-listed seafood will not further risk the extinction of marine species, or cause irreparable damage to our ocean ecosystems. 

We will continue to support and recognise those in our fishing community that have reached this high standard of sustainability.

How big a threat is bycatch?

Bycatch is something we’ve been battling for years. We campaign hard to protect threatened species, expand marine protections and stop damaging fishing practices like deep water trawling and gillnets. We’ve had some epic wins with help from ocean lovers and we’ll never stop working to set the environmental standard for our fisheries higher and higher in the future. 

Right now we are working to get cameras installed on fishing vessels operating in our Great Barrier Reef so we get a true picture of the scale of bycatch of dugongs, turtles, sawfish and dolphins in gillnets. We are also fighting for strict regional limits on the number of endangered species that can be caught, to allow these iconic species to recover to healthy populations.

What about the risks to marine wildlife from abandoned and discarded fishing nets?

Discarded fishing nets, often called ghost gear, are deadly for our ocean creatures. Lost and abandoned gillnets, trawl nets and crab pots are designed to catch and kill wildlife. This dangerous material lasts for many years floating in the ocean, and is estimated to make up as much as 10% of all plastic in the ocean.¹

In the Northern Territory, through the Keep Top End Coasts Healthy alliance, we have been supporting Aboriginal Ranger Groups to tackle the tide of marine debris washing up on their otherwise pristine coast, including ghost nets washing up from international waters. 

Ultimately the threat of ghost gear and abandoned fishing nets is a global problem, and we need a global solution. We are fighting to get Australia to take a leading role in pursuing a Global Oceans Treaty to ensure that human activities are strictly assessed and properly managed, so that issues like lost fishing gear are considered when allowing fisheries to operate in international waters. 

What are you doing to tackle the issue of industrial scale fishing?

We fought hard to have super-trawlers banned from fishing in Australian waters. We were a leading organisation in the fight to stop the supertrawler, the Margiris, from fishing here, working with conservation partners, communities around Australia and the government to protect our marine life from industrialised fishing. Larger fishing boats do operate in our territorial waters which is why we fight for marine sanctuaries.

We work to improve policy and laws to ensure generations of Australians can access seafood and marine wildlife is protected from harm. We do this with the Commonwealth Government and governments around Australia, and AMCS representatives are instrumental in making the conservation case in fishery management forums around the country. It is a huge element of the work that we do to drive fishing in the right direction. 

If you eat seafood, using our GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide will help you to choose seafood wisely, whether you’re shopping in the supermarket or ordering at a restaurant/takeaway.

GoodFish is completely free of government and industry funding or influence and is an up-to-date, reliable and credible source of information on the sustainability of Australian seafood.

Is fishing the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef?

No. Climate change is by far the biggest threat to the reef.² But unsustainable commercial fishing and water pollution from land-based run-off are also significant issues. We have dedicated experts working to mitigate all of these threats to a healthy Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.

Can we do more? 

Yes, we can all do more. But we can’t do it without ongoing support from ocean lovers like you. Join our newsletter, sign petitions and actions and continue to spread the word about our oceans. 

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. Macfadyen G, Huntington T, Cappell R (2009). Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies, No.185; FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 523. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome. http://www.fao.org/3/i0620e/i0620e00.htmGreat Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (2019). Position Statement – Climate Change. https://elibrary.gbrmpa.gov.au/jspui/bitstream/11017/3460/5/v1-Climate-Change-Position-Statement-for-eLibrary.pdf 
  2. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (2019). Position Statement – Climate Change. https://elibrary.gbrmpa.gov.au/jspui/bitstream/11017/3460/5/v1-Climate-Change-Position-Statement-for-eLibrary.pdf