Yeah, you read that right. The worms you just bought are part of a colossal 7.5 billion-dollar industry.
That’s a lot of worms and a lot money. In fact, this makes marine worms some of the most valuable items coming out of the seas.
Currently, there appears to not be a lot of regulation over the harvesting of worms. A current estimate is that 121,000 tons of worms are harvested and used as bait each year. This can be damaging to the local ecosystem, removing the bait worms as a food source, combined with soil destruction. This could lead to more regulation in the harvesting process.
Some of the more popular worms in this study are ragworms, lugworms, sandworms, and bloodworms, mostly used in salt water fishing. The cost of this bait is so high because of the effort required to harvest and dig up the worms. In fact the blood worm costs about 153 UK £ per kilogram; that’s $72.40 per pound. Keep in mind, salmon goes for about $13 dollars per pound in most cases.
Again, there are not a lot of regulations regarding the harvesting and collection of bait worms. The collection can result in stress on the local ecosystem. The predatory birds that feed on the worms suffer and the act of digging up the beach damages the areas and leads to pollution of the neighboring water.
I am not a proponent of government regulation in most cases. This is not one of those cases. Given the connection of the bait and the fishing industry as well as the local fish populations this industry needs some regulations. Without them, what is stopping people from over-harvesting this bait?