Ending destructive fishing practices

In some cases, a fishing practice or gear is so damaging that we believe it should stop completely.
WWF's primary approach to reduce the impacts of fishing on the marine environment is to work with fishers to change the way fisheries are operated and managed.

However, in cases where bycatch or a fishing practice is an immediate threat to the survival of a species or ecosystem and existing legislation and enforcement are inadequate, we will work to stop the use of certain fishing gear and practices completely.

Examples include:

  • Protecting deep-sea habitats from bottom trawling. For example, we helped achieve bans on bottom trawling below depths of 1,000m in the Mediterranean Sea, around the Azores Islands, on several cold-water coral reefs in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, and on the UK's Darwin Mounds, prior to their complete protection.
  • Getting rid of driftnets in the Mediterranean. Despite a 1992 UN moratorium on all large-scale driftnet fishing and subsequent driftnet bans, the damaging practice has continued. WWF campaigns against illegal driftnet fishing in the Mediterranean Sea led to a complete ban on the use of driftnets by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna and an EU decision to help Morocco phase out its illegal driftnet fleet.
  • Saving dolphins and porpoises. As part of WWF's work to reduce cetacean bycatch, we have campaigned against the use of driftnets and gillnets in certain fisheries for many years. Success include a complete ban of driftnet fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, a ban on setting gillnets in inshore waters on New Zealand's North Island to protect the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin, and a long-term conservation strategy for Mexico's vaquita developed in collaboration with many partners, which includes the elimination of gillnets and shrimp trawling nets in its range to reduce bycatch mortality rates to zero. 
  • Stopping cyanide and dynamite fishing. In Indonesia, a 75% eradication of blast fishing and cyanide fishing has been achieved in Bunaken, Wakatobi, and Teluk Cendrawasih National Parks, and in the Philippines, a WWF programme is training and supporting members of the local community, mostly fishers, to assist local governments and other organizations to patrol marine areas in order to stop cyanide, dynamite, and other forms of illegal fishing.
 / ©: Brian J. Skerry WWF
Bottom trawler scapes the ocean floor Baja California, Mexico
© Brian J. Skerry WWF
WWF is one of many organizations working to end bottom trawling on sensitive marine habitats, particularly fragile deep-sea habitats like cold-water coral reefs and seamounts.
 / ©: Sandra Mbanefo Obiago / WWF
Seal caught in a drift net, West Coast National Park, South Africa.
© Sandra Mbanefo Obiago / WWF
Labelled 'walls of death', driftnets have killed hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins, seabirds, marine turtles, sharks, non-target fish and other animals since they were introduced in the 1970s.
Vaquita or Gulf of California Harbor porpoise (Phocoena sinus) caught in fishing nets, Baja ... / ©: National Geographic Stock/Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures / WWF
Vaquita or Gulf of California Harbor porpoise (Phocoena sinus) caught in fishing nets, Baja California, Mexico.
© National Geographic Stock/Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures / WWF
Vaquita caught in fishing nets, Baja California, Mexico.

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