What is bottom trawling and why is it a problem?

Image © Greenpeace

Image © Greenpeace

Bottom trawling is a singularly destructive fishing method in which weighted nets — some as large as football fields — are forcefully dragged along the ocean floor, decimating everything in their path. These bottom trawls smother, scrape, and scar the seabed, indiscriminately razing marine ecosystems and sweeping up vulnerable species including dolphins, turtles, corals, juvenile fish, sharks, and rays in the process.

  • Bad for marine life — and people, too: Bottom trawling flattens vital habitats, scooping up and killing wildlife — often in so-called “protected” areas. Disrupting complex marine ecosystems throws our shared environment out of balance, threatening livelihoods, economies, cultures, recreation, and coastal protection alike.

  • Bad for fishers: Bottom trawling is wasteful and counterproductive, depleting valuable fish stocks and resulting in millions of tonnes of discarded fish every year. Small-scale, low-impact fisheries and the communities that depend on them are under threat every day that bottom trawling is allowed.

  • Bad for the climate: The carbon footprint of bottom trawled seafood is among the highest of all foods. For one thing, bottom trawling burns fossil fuels to catch fish and other marine life, more than any other fishing method. And when trawl nets scrape the seabed, they disturb vast amounts of carbon, releasing plumes of carbon-rich sediment that can be viewed from space. Bottom trawling is accelerating global warming and ocean acidification, and worsening the impacts of climate change.

  • Bad for the ocean: In one fell swoop, ecosystems that took centuries to form are demolished. Recovery can take decades, if it happens at all.

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