The history of deep sea fishing goes all the way back to the time of Jonah and the whale. For as long as there have been fish, people have been trying to catch them. Fresh water fishing has been recorded as far back as the Paleolithic period around 40,000 years ago. Deep sea fishing could not begin until there were ships capable of sailing long distances from shore. Early ocean explorers were wary about fishing in the deep sea. They did not believe that fish could exist in such deep waters and were concerned that they may anger or offend the gods of the sea. As new boat building techniques were learned, the population and demand for fish grew a commercial fishing industry was born. Growth of the deep sea fishing was limited to family owned small business and recreational day trips until the 1970’s when commercial fishing boomed.
Deep sea fishing takes place on the continental plane, past the shoreline, between the depths of 600 to 6000 feet. Some of the most common fish that are caught by deep sea fishing are shark, tuna, swordfish, orange roughy and Chilean sea bass. Deep sea fish are slow growing and take decades to repopulate. The orange roughy you had for dinner the other night could have been born before the telephone was invented.
Commercial deep sea fishing ships can be 300 feet or longer, hold 1,000 tons of fish and stay at sea for 300 days out of a year. Large winches and cable nets the size of several football fields are dropped to the ocean and dragged across the bottom for several hours at a rate of four miles per hour. Any fish in the area are scooped up along with any other plants and animals. Only fine rubble remain on the ocean floor afterwards. Only the fish that bring in the money are used and the rest are thrown out or dumped back in the ocean as debris. According to the Food and Agriculture Agency, eighty-six million tons of fish were caught in the year 2000 worldwide.
Over-use of commercial fishing practices and pollution from the boats have decreased the population of deep sea fish to endangered levels. Our demand for fish has far outweighed their growth rate. The growth of fish farms is helping to keep a supply of fish available to the public but more needs to be done to protect the deep sea fish in the ocean.