Why drone fishing is a real threat to biodiversity

·2-min read
Drone fishing may be trendy, but it is a threat to marine biodiversity.

Fly fishing, lure fishing, bow fishing and drone fishing! There is no stopping progress, except that this new and very trendy practice allows fishers to reach marine species that fishing at sea could not previously reach. And that's a real problem for biodiversity, with South Africa deciding to ban it outright.

In mid-April, South Africa ended a legal battle with drone manufacturers, who were defending the practice of fishing with these small unmanned and remotely piloted aircraft. The country is not the only place where this type of fishing is used. In Australia, the United States and New Zealand, fishermen have been using drones since 2015, "Courrier International" outlines.

What exactly is drone fishing?

With drones, it's possible to gain in altitude and thus spot schools of fish at a greater distance from the shore. The device can rise and travel distances of up to 850, even 950 meters. Using this method, it's possible to throw the line, and therefore the bait, where it is needed, when it is needed, particularly in areas imperceptible to the naked eye since the fisherman remains on shore. For light fish, the drone can even be used to help lift the line that has had a bite. For larger species, the line can be detached from the flying device with a simple command -- a fishing rod can even be connected to the drone, while the fisherman can ultimately decide whether to reel in his catch by hand or not. Advocates of drone fishing praise the practice for its usefulness in catching larger specimens. In 2016, two Australian fishermen generated buzz on social networks with the capture of a 20-kg tuna caught by drone.

Why is this new practice dangerous?

With an estimated 34% of fish stocks overfished, according to the UN's FAO, drone fishing clears the path for fishing in areas that fishermen did not previously fish in, or which were little touched by fishermen. Last fall, on Radio France Internationale, biologist Bruce Mann indicated that these places that fishermen did not reach before the arrival of drones serve as refuge areas for species, where they meet to eat. But with the advent of drone fishing, it is impossible for the fish to get out and not end up caught in the net. Furthermore, such schools of fish represent sources of food for larger species such as sharks and dolphins, which are thus in turn threatened by this type of fishing.

In South Africa, the government came to the conclusion that drone fishing increased the pressure on certain endangered species, leading its Ministry of the Environment to ban the practice. A decision that upset drone manufacturers, who attempted to take legal action by challenging the ban in court, a challenge that was dismissed and thus the ban upheld.

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