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Bycatch Bites

Bycatchanimals that fishermen don’t want, cannot sell, or are not allowed to keepcomes in many different forms and affects people in different ways. We asked a few of these people for their perspectives on bycatch. Read them below.

Steve Witthuhn
Captain, Top Hook Fishing Charters
New York

"Fishing is about bending the rods, education and giving my customers a good experience. If I don't have product in the water, I'm out of business. I care about bycatch because you can't just push a button and make more fish. So I make sure conservation is part of the experience. That means we don't take more fish than we need, and make sure the fish we release to swim away, don't float away. One thing we do is us​e​ release tools to make sure fish pulled up from deep water survive. I'm in this for the long-haul."


Marydele Donnelly
Director of Int'l Policy, Sea Turtle Conservancy

"Many fisheries produce bycatch when they accidentally capture non-target species like sea turtles. Bycatch is a terrible waste, and it's bad for the health of the oceans. I've worked to reduce sea turtle bycatch for more than 30 years because sea turtles are magnificent animals in their own right and integral to healthy marine ecosystems. Today many fixes to reduce sea turtle bycatch are available but not all are used as extensively as they should be. One thing the U.S. has done well is to push the development and acceptance of our bycatch reduction measures and technology internationally for sea turtles and other endangered species. More work remains to be done at home and abroad!"  

Kerry Heffernan
Chef, Grand Banks Oyster Bar
New York

"Anyone concerned about our ocean fish stocks should take notice of bycatch. As a chef, bycatch affects me hugely. Part of the problem with bycatch is that it takes away from my potential future menus. We’re trying to lessen our impact on certain species, tuna for example, and to start to create awareness around underutilized species such as almaco jack. There may well be even better alternatives, but we need to be made aware of what’s happening in the commercial fisherman’s nets and not even getting to us."


Greg DiDimenico
Executive Director, Garden State Seafood New Jersey

"For me, fishing is a business and bycatch is an unwanted expense. We respond to market and regulatory demands by avoiding bycatch to the extent practicable while being efficient and delivering a quality product. It is not viable to spend valuable time and money separating incidentally caught fish from your target species, which can often diminish the quality of the final product. While bycatch can be unavoidable on occasion, we’re making the best of the technology we can afford and refining our fishing practices from years of at sea knowledge.The consumer should know that domestically harvested seafood is an ethical and nutritious choice."

Cal Sutphin Jr.
Recreational angler

"Bycatch absolutely matters to me. I alter my fishing method or where I’m fishing when I’m continually catching an unintended species. Some may consider bycatch a nuisance, but I believe a balance of life is needed by everything in the water. I always try to explain to other anglers that every fish serves a purpose, possibly even with the fish that they ultimately are targeting. I understand that catching fish – even ones I’m not after – impacts their survival, which is why I’m always aware of how my fishing affects the ocean around me."


Ian Cole 
Owner, Ocean2Table Community Supported Fishery

"Bycatch is wasted opportunity. But we're moving towards a more sustainable future. Consumers want fresh, local, sustainably-harvested seafood. Fishermen are catching fish they can’t find a market for. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity. Through our community supported fishery (CSF), we’re working to enlighten people to those species that are right there in their backyard, species we’ve been throwing overboard for years.We do a lot to inform consumers about where our seafood comes from and open people’s minds to the diversity of fresh, tasty, and healthy local seafood options. And by reducing waste to better utilize what’s available, we’re supporting our fishermen and helping shore up the port communities and local economies."


Learn more about how we're tackling bycatch and what you can do to help.