German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Finding answers – ecosystem-friendly fishing gear

Cod (Gadus morhua) can also be caught using fish traps. Photo: C. Pusch (BfN)
Cod (Gadus morhua) can also be caught using fish traps. Photo: C. Pusch (BfN)

Development and use of alternative fishing gear

Seabird and porpoise bycatch in set nets can be avoided in conflict areas by ban-ning set nets as a fishing method, where applicable at specific times or in specific areas.

The use of ecosystem-friendly fishing gear as an alternative to bycatch-intensive fishing methods has also proved promising. BfN has funded research projects on the development and use of alternative fishing gear such as fish traps since 2008. Pilot studies with fish traps in German Baltic Sea waters (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) have brought positive results. They show that fish traps have greater selectivity and less bycatch but lower fishing efficiency than set nets. Studies in Sweden show that in the right conditions, fish traps can have similar fishing efficiency to set nets. Non-target fish species and undersize indi-viduals (juveniles) of the target species can be retrieved from the traps alive and put back. The live-caught fish are also higher quality and can attract a higher market price, for example with eco-certification.

Further studies and research projects are underway. These include research into the use of alternative fishing gear such as longlines and automated fishing sys-tems. In cooperation with commercial fishing operations, initial fishing trials with longline systems and jigging reels have been in progress in the Baltic Sea since 2013. These also feature in the video.

2015: Sustainable fishing methods on trial

2014: Towards sustainable fisheries

Fish trap. Photo: C. Pusch (BfN)
Fish trap. Photo: C. Pusch (BfN)

Certification of sustainable fisheries

Eco-certification for fisheries is another means of making fisheries more ecosystem-friendly. Fish from sustainable fisheries – caught in accordance with criteria for a specific eco-label, for example, or from non-endangered fish stocks – are specially labelled for consumers. Consumers can then decide for themselves what fish they want to buy, thus creating economic incentives for ecosystem-friendly fisheries.

Examples include the ecosystem-friendly and sustainably managed fisheries in accordance with the criteria of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild fish stocks and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) for farmed fish.

Shopping guides for consumers

BfN also supports initiatives by nature conservation organisations such as the WWF and Greenpeace that regularly publish up-to-date fish shopping guides. For this purpose, based on scientific data from fisheries management agencies and research institutions such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and recent research findings, wild fish stocks are assessed by fisher-ies scientists and the assessments reviewed by independent experts. The as-sessments analyse information on stock management, stock status and environ-mental impacts of the fishing methods used. Assessments of fish farms include data on the origin and consumption of feed, the use of chemicals and veterinary drugs, and environmental impacts of each fish farm.

Retailers are now also required to publish information on the origin (fishing ground) and the farming and fishing methods used for each species. This infor-mation is likewise included in the assessments for shopping guides.


Directorate Marine Nature Conservation