An Environmental Crisis in the Making Is Coming From … Bait Worms?

Maybe fly anglers have the right idea

Fishing poles attached to the back of a boat
Can the worms used for fishing bait lead to an environmental crisis? Maybe!
Stephen Momot/Unsplash

As a recreational activity, fishing doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on the environment, especially if you’re catching and then releasing the fish involved. It’s certainly no picnic for the worms you’re using as bait, but then again, fish eat bugs all the time. What could be the harm?

As it turns out, the industry engaged in farming worms for fishing bait might have more of an impact on the environment than anyone thought possible. A new article at The Atlantic by Peter Andrey Smith, which originally appeared in Hakai Magazine, explores the process leading to bloodworms being packaged and sent out to use as bait — and what the downside of might be.

Bloodworms are popular in the fishing world because of their versatility — an article at fishing site Catch and Fillet described them as “the ultimate fishing bait.” As Smith explains in the article, the issue isn’t really with the bloodworms themselves, it’s with how they’re often packaged. The worms often come packed with a seaweed called wormweed, which is generally discarded when the worms arrive at their destination.

Unfortunately, the seaweed can carry invasive species with it. The seaweed can also be an invasive species in its own right, as researchers at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center learned. And while packaging bloodworms in, say, shredded newspapers is as effective as wormweed, it’s been difficult to convince many companies to change their technique.

Finding a balance between environmental appeals and environmental regulations is a challenge for all involved, but the consequences are not small — one study suggested that green crabs transported via seaweed could cost the fishing industry over $750 million.

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