4 Ways Illegal Fishing Impacts Our Eco-Systems

By Andy Whitcomb

Mar 28, 2017

Illegal fishing activity affects our nation's waterways by damaging fish stocks, aquatic habitats, bycatch species. Find out how you can do your part to help.

Illegal fishing can lead to diminished fish populations and can take a serious toll on our aquatic eco-systems. While state agencies and fisheries policy makers focus on how to stop illegal fishing activities, , it remains a challenge. As an ethical angler, it's important that you become educated on how to avoid illegal fishing while sharing the message about fishing conservation.

Illegal fishing can affect our aquatic eco-systems in a number of ways, but here are a few of the negative impacts.

1. Illegal fishing methods may cause certain species to be overfished to the point of near extinction. Overfishing has a negative impact on aquatic biodiversity because every plant and animal plays a special role in keeping the balance of an eco-system. Always check the fishing regulations for your state and abide by all bag limits, size limits, and legal fishing methods.

2. Bycatch (non-targeted) species are often unintentionally caught and improperly released with little to no chance for survival. Since it's illegal to possess any species that are not within state regulations, recreational anglers should follow proper catch and release methods so that any bycatch species are safely released back into their native habitats. Examples of bycatch can include juvenile fish or turtles.

3. Illegal fishing methods contribute to the destruction of aquatic habitat or high numbers of bycatch. For example, in the state of Florida, regulations state that freshwater game fish may not be taken by use of any free-floating, unattached device, or by taking of fish or wildlife with firearms, explosives, electricity, spear gun, poison or other chemicals. Some states also prohibit the use of fishing lures or lines that have more than three hooks. 

4. Fishing gear and tackle that is left behind can be destructive because it continues to catch or entangle animals. Fishing piers are examples of areas where you may see evidence of this. Illegally discarded nets or lines can get wrapped around pier pilings causing animals such as fish or birds to become trapped. 

The good news is that you can set an example by learning how to fish responsibly, by reporting illegal fishing activity, and by making sustainable seafood choices. In fact, the simple act of purchasing your fishing license helps to contribute to state conservation programs including fisheries management, habitat protection, and fishing education.
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.