Sustainable fishing practices for sailors
Sustainable fishing practices for sailors

As sailors, it's important to adopt sustainable fishing practices to protect the oceans we love and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same experiences that we do.

Sustainable Fishing Practices for Sailors

As sailors who have chosen to leave the rat race behind and embrace the open sea, we have a unique opportunity to live in harmony with nature and minimize our impact on the environment. One of the ways we can do this is by adopting sustainable fishing practices. In this article, we will explore various methods and techniques that can help us fish responsibly and preserve the ocean’s resources for future generations.

Table of Contents

Understanding Sustainable Fishing

Sustainable fishing is a practice that aims to maintain the balance of marine ecosystems by ensuring that fish populations are not overexploited. This involves using fishing methods that minimize the impact on the environment, targeting species that are not overfished, and respecting local regulations and guidelines.

As sailors, we have a responsibility to protect the oceans that we love and depend on. By adopting sustainable fishing practices, we can contribute to the preservation of marine life and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same experiences that we do.

Choosing the Right Gear

The type of fishing gear you use can have a significant impact on the sustainability of your catch. Some types of gear, such as drift nets and bottom trawls, can cause significant damage to marine habitats and result in high levels of bycatch (the unintentional capture of non-target species). To minimize your impact on the environment, consider using the following types of gear:

Handlines and Rods

Handlines and rods are among the most sustainable fishing methods, as they allow for selective targeting of specific species and sizes. This reduces the likelihood of catching non-target species and allows for the release of undersized or unwanted fish with minimal harm.


Trolling involves towing lures or baited hooks behind a moving boat. This method is more selective than other types of fishing, as it targets specific species that are attracted to the lures or bait. Trolling can be an effective and sustainable way to catch pelagic fish such as tuna, mahi-mahi, and wahoo.

Circle Hooks

When using hooks, opt for circle hooks instead of traditional J-hooks. Circle hooks are designed to reduce the likelihood of gut-hooking fish, which can cause serious injury and reduce the chances of survival upon release. Circle hooks are more likely to hook fish in the mouth, making it easier to remove the hook and release the fish unharmed.

Fishing Responsibly

In addition to using sustainable gear, there are several practices you can adopt to minimize your impact on the environment while fishing:

Target Sustainable Species

Before you cast your line, research the local fish populations and target species that are not overfished or threatened. Avoid catching species that are slow to reproduce or have low population numbers. By targeting sustainable species, you can help maintain the balance of marine ecosystems and ensure that fish populations remain healthy.

Practice Catch and Release

If you catch a fish that is undersized, unwanted, or a non-target species, practice catch and release to give the fish the best chance of survival. Use proper handling techniques to minimize stress and injury to the fish (see the Catch and Release Techniques section below for more information).

Limit Your Catch

Even if you are targeting sustainable species, it’s essential to limit your catch to what you can reasonably consume. Overfishing can lead to the depletion of fish stocks and the collapse of marine ecosystems. By limiting your catch, you can help ensure that fish populations remain healthy and abundant.

Catch and Release Techniques

If you choose to practice catch and release, it’s crucial to handle the fish properly to minimize stress and injury. Follow these guidelines to give the fish the best chance of survival:

Use Barbless Hooks or Pinch the Barb

Barbless hooks or hooks with the barb pinched down are easier to remove and cause less damage to the fish. This reduces the likelihood of injury and increases the chances of survival upon release.

Keep the Fish in the Water

Whenever possible, keep the fish in the water while removing the hook. This reduces stress and helps maintain the fish’s protective slime layer, which is essential for warding off infections and parasites.

Use a Rubberized Net

If you need to use a net to land the fish, opt for a rubberized net instead of a traditional nylon net. Rubberized nets are less likely to damage the fish’s protective slime layer and reduce the risk of injury.

Wet Your Hands

Before handling the fish, wet your hands to minimize the removal of the fish’s protective slime layer. Avoid using gloves, as they can cause more damage to the slime layer than bare hands.

Hold the Fish Horizontally

When holding the fish, support its weight by cradling it horizontally with both hands. Avoid holding the fish vertically by the jaw or gill plate, as this can cause injury to the fish’s internal organs.

Release the Fish Quickly

Once the hook has been removed, release the fish as quickly as possible to minimize stress. Gently lower the fish into the water and allow it to swim away on its own. If the fish is disoriented or struggling, hold it upright in the water and gently move it back and forth to help oxygenate its gills.

Respecting Local Regulations

Before you start fishing in a new location, familiarize yourself with the local regulations and guidelines. These may include:

  • Fishing seasons and closures
  • Size and bag limits for specific species
  • Gear restrictions
  • Fishing licenses and permits

By respecting local regulations, you can help ensure the sustainability of fish populations and contribute to the conservation of marine ecosystems.

Supporting Sustainable Seafood

In addition to practicing sustainable fishing, you can support the health of our oceans by choosing sustainable seafood when shopping or dining out. Look for eco-labels such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to identify seafood products that have been sourced responsibly.

Educating Others

As sailors who are passionate about the ocean and its inhabitants, we have a unique opportunity to educate others about the importance of sustainable fishing. Share your knowledge and experiences with fellow sailors, friends, and family members to help raise awareness and promote responsible fishing practices.

By adopting sustainable fishing practices, we can do our part to protect the oceans that we love and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same experiences that we do. Happy and responsible fishing!