This photo shows what comes out of a net when boats trawl for prawns (otherwise known as Scampi and the second most valuable fishery for Irish boats). How many prawns can you see? The remainder, the vast bulk of the catch in fact, is made up of other fish, rays and invertebrates. Looking closely it can be seen that these fish are all juveniles. They will be thrown back into the sea, dead, to provide food for sea birds or bottom-dwelling creatures that survived the trawl.
Discarding ‘by-catch’ is something that nobody wants. People can’t understand why perfectly good fish (i.e. food) should be thrown back into the sea. However it should be remembered that what is in the net above is the entire marine food web and not just lost income. The IWT believes that more selective fishing gear must be developed to minimise discards but the fact is that trawling is so destructive that unwanted by-catch probably cannot be eliminated. It will therefore be necessary to ban trawling altogether in some areas in order to allow marine ecosystems to recover. This should be done through the designation of large Marine Reserves that would prohibit all damaging fishing practices. See our page on Marine Protected Areas.