Why Fishing with Dynamite is So Harmful

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In some countries, there are still people using dynamite to catch fish. This practice is incredibly destructive, not just to adult fish but to the entire marine ecosystem. A blast wave traveling through air loses some its energy to the compression of the gas. Water, on the other hand, is incompressible, so the blast wave’s energy just keeps going, expanding its destructive radius. Many fish contain swim bladders, gas-filled organs the fish use to regulate their depth. When a shock wave passes through the fish, the gas in the swim bladder will expand and contract violently, much like the balloons shown underwater in the animation below. This typically ruptures the swim bladder and surrounding tissues.

Fish without swim bladders will often hemorrhage after being struck by a blast wave. The sudden changes in pressure create bubbles in the dissolved gases collected in their gills. Those bubbles tear apart the fish’s blood vessels.

Blasting is effective but entirely indiscriminate. It kills adults and juveniles of all species, not just the ones a fisherman can sell. Simultaneously, it destroys the slow-growing coral reefs that are key habitats for these populations. It’s an incredibly short-sighted practice that guarantees there will be no fish to catch in years to come. (Video credit: National Geographic; image credit: M. Rober, source; research credit: K. Dunlap, pdf)

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