A new report from Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (published 5 June 2014), identifies the impacts that fishing can have on wider marine ecosystems while proposing practical solutions to help reduce negative effects. The report, called: “Minimizing and managing the impact of fisheries on marine food webs” is sponsored by Asda Walmart and is one of a series of SFP ‘Best Practices’ publications.

The report can be found here. Commercial fishing activities can have impacts on marine ecosystems beyond the target species or those caught accidentally as bycatch. Wider effects that occur through the disruption of food webs and reduction of available prey for particular species can have profound impacts on a marine ecosystem and need to be carefully monitored and managed. The report examines the issues around food web disruption by exploring specific case studies such as Antarctic krill, wild Pacific salmon, forage fish and others to illustrate the problems and potential solutions. The report recommends several actions to the seafood supply chain including: 

  • Prioritize fisheries that are most vulnerable to ecosystem disruption and act accordingly
  • Encourage the adoption of precautionary measures that don’t necessarily rely on complete scientific understanding of the ecosystem – for instance, adopting a more precautionary approach to TACs for vulnerable species. Don’t let uncertainty prevent appropriate precautionary action.
  • Set ecological indicators and targets in fisheries wherever possible

Commenting on the report, Chris Brown, Sustainability Director at Asda Walmart said: “Asda Walmart believes that we have to understand and respect our impacts on the complex inter-relationships that sustain the marine ecosystem. This report points the way to better and more inclusive approaches to fisheries management.” Jim Cannon, CEO of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership said: “If fishing is going to be responsible we need a good understanding of the wider impacts across the marine ecosystem. This report is a good first step in identifying some problems and solutions and we plan to further cooperate with our corporate partners in promoting an awareness of food web issues.”