Purse Seine Fishing

Ana, Brittany, David

What is Purse Seine Fishing?

It is a type of fishing that uses a net called a seine. The seine has floats along the top line with a lead line threaded through rings along the bottom. Once a school of fish is located, a skiff encircles the school with the net. The lead line is then pulled in, "pursing" the net closed on the bottom, preventing fish from escaping by swimming downward.
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How does Purse Seining harm the ecosystem?

  1. Sea turtles can be captured by a purse seine as it is set and then become entangled in the net mesh as it is hauled in. Entangled turtles may sustain injuries to their flippers and shells due to the force of the net as it is hauled. encircled marine mammals cannot escape and can become entangled, injured, or stressed. In U.S. fisheries, species most commonly captured include bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales.

Organisms that are harvested using Purse seining

Squid and schools of pelagic fish of all sizes (Sardines, tuna etc.)

Does the government regulate Purse Seining?

Historically, dolphin pods were even used as a natural cue visually leading purse seiners toward areas of abundant schooling fish (called "setting on dolphins"), a technique no longer employed in the U.S. Employing fisheries observers who scan the water prior to setting nets is the most effective way of minimizing incidental capture. Fishers in the U.S. no longer set nets on dolphin pods in accordance with the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program, which is designed to reduce cetacean bycatch in purse seines.

What would happen if the government banned Purse Seining?

  1. The fishing industry is a large business and purse seining is a very common method to fish. If the government banned this method, the ability to capture large amounts of fish wouldn’t be possible. On the other hand, there would be less bycatching and allow endangered species to thrive.

How do we find a solution?

When fishing on free-swimming schools of tuna, purse seine fishing has an average bycatch rate that is less than 1%. The bycatch rate for purse seiners that use FADs ranges from around 2% in the western and central Pacific Ocean to nearly 8% in the Atlantic Ocean. This means that we want to only buy fish that are caught without the use of FADs and will have the label 'FAD free'. FAD stands for 'fish aggravating device'. This device is something fishermen use to stir and agitate fish and is the cause of most bycatch. Since bycatch is one of the only negative effects of purse seine fishing, we want to eliminate it from the process.

Is Purse Seining environmentally sustainable?

  1. In moderation and on certain species, this method is sustainable. Large schools of tightly schooling fish can be caught with almost no bycatch or impact on total population. Problems arise when this method is used on any other species: purse seining is used on bluefin tuna (who aggregate to spawn), decimating their fairly small population.

Do we need to find an alternative?

No. Most purse seine fishing when done correctly does not harm the aquatic ecosystems. As long as you look for fish sold with labels that say 'FAD free' you can be assured that product was caught sustainably. To check to see if the fish you are eating is caught sustainably or is environmentally friendly check http://www.seafoodwatch.org/ for some great information.