The Most Destructive Fishing Method Has “Unexpected Benefits”

Written by on September 6, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law
Trails of sediment stirred up by bottom trawlers off Pecan Island, Louisiana.

Trails of sediment stirred up by bottom trawlers off Pecan Island, Louisiana. Photo credit: SkyTruth via photopin cc.

Bottom trawling is considered to be one of the most destructive methods of fishing. It involves dragging heavy metal equipment along the ocean floor at high speeds in order to catch certain benthic species. In addition to destroying the seabed, trawling results in high levels of bycatch because the nets scoop up everything in its path, not just the targeted species.

Later this month, the European Union will vote on a proposed ban on deep-sea bottom trawling. Conservationists support this ban as it would give certain fish stocks some time to recover. The fishing industry, on the other hand, strongly opposes the ban, saying that it is possible to keep trawling with less destructive methods and that both the target and non-target species are not in any trouble.

Les Watling, professor of biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, recently wrote an article for Nature that examines the claims made by the fishing industry and explains why the ban needs to be passed. Check it out.

A new article (published only a day after Watling’s) has a dramatically different view: “Bottom trawling may be good for fish, study suggests.”


A study about how flatfish (like plaice and sole) react to standard beam trawling suggests that there may be unexpected benefits to trawling. The researchers found that the side-effects of trawling, like the removal of other kinds of bottom-dwellers, can benefit the commercially-targeted species in the North Sea. Read the whole post here.

The results will undoubtedly create some controversy, but we will have to wait until September 18 to see if they impact the European Union’s ban on bottom trawling. Check back for updates!

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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