Hooked to death

Published: Sunday 15 December 1996

TECHNOLOGICAL advances in the fishing industry has made life miserable for the multitudes of aquatic species. Until now it was the drift nets -- about 48-km-long mesh screen -- which trapped many species of fishes and was, therefore, banned. Now, the new danger comes from fishing lines up to 130 km long, which deploy thousands of hooks apiece. Modern equipment like satellite tracking, sonar and radar, further help in pinpointing the exact position of the fishes.

These lines hook many an open ocean species (also called pelagic species) like swordfish, tuna and sharks. While these long-lines are selective and kill lesser number of dolphins and whales, they pose a major threat to various kinds of sea birds that hover around the fishing boats. Birds such as the albatross nab the bait, get hooked and are often dragged down and drowned.

The new fishing lines have depleted large numbers of swordfish in Atlantic ocean forcing operators to move their base to Hawaii. Said Ronald Smolowitz, an independent expert on the design of fishing gear, based in Massachusetts, "Long-liners have filled the gap left by banning drift nets."

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