Making a Good Catch: Sustainable Fishing Methods | South Carolina Aquarium

Making a Good Catch: Sustainable Fishing Methods

Nov 11

Making a Good Catch: Sustainable Fishing Methods

Numerous fishing methods are used to bring delicious seafood to our dinner tables. Understanding how seafood is caught is important when deciding what to order at a restaurant or when purchasing seafood at the grocery store. The fishing methods described here are commonly used off the South Carolina coast. Ask about how your seafood was caught before you order it so you can make an environmentally responsible decision. Join the movement at


Trawling is a fishing method in which a net is typically pulled behind a fishing boat to catch shrimp along the South Carolina coast. South Carolina heavily enforces the use of Turtle Excluder Devices in trawl nets, minimizing the bycatch of turtles, sharks and other large fish. Trawling over rocky or coral bottoms might cause habitat damage, but because South Carolina’s shores are mostly sand and mud, the chance of damage is diminished.


Longlining involves miles of fishing line connected by buoys on either end. Lines can reach up to 50 miles in some cases. Hook-and-lines are attached intermittently along an anchor line, remaining in the water column for extended periods to catch species like swordfish, tilefish and yellowfin tuna. Use of circle hooks and bycatch release workshops are mandatory for crew members on longline vessels, and longlining is more heavily regulated in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.


Hook-and-line fishing is a sustainable method to catch many types of fish. Using circle hooks instead of J hooks minimizes bycatch and causes little to no habitat damage. Snapper, grouper, black sea bass, mahi-mahi and wreckfish are a few of the South Carolina species commonly caught via hook-and-line. Trolling enables multiple lines to drag behind a fishing vessel at once.

Pot fishing

Pot fisheries use one or several cages submerged on the ocean floor, connected to the water’s surface by a rope and buoy so fishermen can easily find their catch. Along the South Carolina coast, pots are typically used to catch blue crabs or black sea bass. Minimal bycatch and little to no habitat damage occurs. Diamondback terrapins are occasionally caught; however, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is conducting research on ways to reduce terrapin bycatch.

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