Warm weather has arrived in Southern Maryland, and the welcoming temperatures are once again beckoning people to the great outdoors. Fishing is a popular warm-weather pastime, and it's important to take an environmentally responsible approach when fishing.
According to "Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them," by Ted Danson, in just 55 years, humans have been able to eradicate about 90 percent of the ocean's top predators. These include animals like sharks, marlin, king mackerel, and bluefin tuna. Smaller species also are being wiped out at alarming rates because fishing nets capture far more than is intended, and today's fishing vessels can zero in on large schools of fish relatively easily. Thanks to global positioning technology and sonar capabilities, there's no longer too much surprise in the chase.
Commercial fishing may do the brunt of the damage, but amateurs also can contribute to the contamination of waterways and decimation of fish species. For example, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game says more than 500,000 bass die each year due to improper handling in Massachusetts alone. People of different cultures have fished sustainably for decades, and most anyone can follow their guidelines - and some others - to help keep ocean life healthy.
· Disturb wildlife as little as possible. When traveling into delicate ecosystems, such as those that primarily surround the water's edge, do so with care. Operating a boat in shallow regions can chop up underwater vegetation or harm fish that live in the shallows. Don't remove crustaceans or take plants or other wildlife out of the area.
· Keep track of gear. Discarded or lost fishing gear can prove harmful to wildlife. It's easy for fish or other marine animals to get tangled in fishing line and hooks that were left behind by fishermen. Sinkers and other weights may be mistaken for food and injure unsuspecting animals. Even animals like ducks and other birds can swallow fishing tackle, which can lead to illness or starvation. Don't just abandon gear.
· Fish specific species at different times. Fishing specific species helps maintain different stocks of fish at various times of the year. Plus, you'll help guarantee that one species will not be over-fished, potentially leading to underpopulation or extinction.
· Avoid the use of cast nets or dragnets. Cast nets or dragnets can capture too many fish, including ones that you did not intend to take in.
Responsible fishing can help maintain water ecosystems and protect the surrounding environment.
A day spent on the water is never a waste of time!