The Dutch fishing industry catches approximately 50,000 tons of by-catch per year. Discards (fish that are too young or too small) used to be thrown back overboard, but the chances of survival are uncertain. Even if they survive this procedure, they will probably be eaten by hungry seagulls.
Encouraging Sustainability by Law
To encourage a more sustainable and selective fishing industry, fishermen are now forced by European law to bring all catch to land. This is easier said than done for Dutch fishery. Important species such as sole and plaice all swim together at the bottom of the sea and fishing with big trawlers takes everything including baby fish, crabs, starfish or rayfish. By increasing mesh sizes of the nets, some little ones can escape the net, but that doesn’t apply to every kind of fish.
The Future of the Fishing Industry
What exactly happens to the 50,000 tons of by-catch when it comes onto the land? Currently, it is is not allowed to be sold for direct human consumption, as that would encourage the capture of juvenile fish. Instead, it is processed into fishmeal, providing food for farmed fish and livestock. Although the new law aims for a more sustainable fishing process with less waste, if the technique doesn't improve, the by-catch will remain.
Consequently, this will not only lead to an alarming quantity of unnecessarily wasted fish, but also the North Sea will become over-exploited, causing the fishing industry casting their own future.
Arjanne Bode graduated from Art, Communication and Design (Fontys, Tilburg) with ‘Als een vis op het droge’ in 2016. Born and raised in Zeeland, a province in the south of the Netherlands with a vivid fishing culture, she developed a passion for the sea and every creature living in it.
Als een vis op het droge
The installation is accessible during opening hours of Mediamatic ETEN.
Dijkspark 6, 1019 BS, Amsterdam