Midwater Trawling

By Margaret, Anton, and Ben

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What is it?

Mid-water trawling is a type of fishing involving a cone-shaped net towed by a single boat or spread between 2 boats. Because they are fishing in the pelagic zone, trawlers catch fish such as anchovies, shrimp, tuna, mackerel, and hoki.

Environmental Impact

Luckily, midwater trawlers have a negligible effect on the environment, as their bycatch and habitat impact numbers are far lower than other types of mass fishing devices. As with any trawler, however, there is risk of overfishing if the proprietors of the trawlers are inclined to engage in the exploitation and overuse of resources in targeted species, which can harm the ecosystem. Large scale global fishing, on average, is not economically viable without government assistance due to the depletion of fish populations.


Compared to other trawlers, especially shrimp trawlers, bottom trawlers, and unspecified (probably near-bottom) trawlers, pelagic trawlers conduct their operations with very little rates - practically negligible - of bycatch in terms of discard ratios and on a pure number scale. Here are the most comprehensive statistics on active pelagic fish trawlers regarding the kilograms of bycatch caught per kilogram of fish landed.

Bering Sea Pollock: 0.01

Northeast Atlantic Cod: 0.00

Bering Sea Pollock: 0.00

Gulf of Alaska Pollock: 0.00

Bering Sea Pollock: 0.00

Unfortunately, midwater trawling bycatch does still occur. Cetaceans such as dolphins, porpoises, and whales, are often at risk of getting caught in the trawl because they are attracted to the large groups of prey.

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ways to help

The most common victims of midwater trawling bycatch are cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, whales), who move up the pelagic zone at night. The government could ban trawling at night in order to further minimize the impact on these species.

Role of government

There are few current regulations for midwater trawling. The ones that exist dictate the size of the fish caught and the seasons when it can occur. Because midwater trawling is one of the least harmful methods of commercial fishing, a government ban would do more harm than good. Many hardworking people could lose their jobs or resort to more destructive fishing techniques, such as bottom trawling. It would be more beneficial to enact stricter policies to minimize bycatch, in order to allow midwater trawling to continue in a safer way.


Compared to other kids of fishing, midwater trawling is relatively sustainable and not an immediate threat to the areas where it occurs. However, cetacean bycatch is still an issue and until it is addressed, midwater trawling cannot be classified as sustainable.