October Creature of the Week: This glob of a fish called a sculpin might appear scary to you, but it’s got good reason to be more afraid of us. It usually hangs out along the west coast of the U.S. in the dark, cold waters at around 8,000 to 9,000 feet deep. Unfortunately for the sculpin, that puts it right in the way of commercial trawling fleets. The trawlers drag huge weighted nets along the bottom of the ocean to scrape up valuable seafood like crabs and shrimp, but everything else gets scraped up, too. The effect of the trawls is like clear cutting a forest.
When the fishermen haul their nets onto the boat, everything they can’t sell–the bycatch–gets thrown back into the water. Most of it dies. Bycatch can account for 80% to 90% of the total catch. That’s right, they throw back tons of fish just to catch a few hundred pounds worth of seafood.
[Image courtesy of NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center]