Bottom Trawling

Exploring The Effects of Industrial Fishing

Description of the Bottom Trawling Process

Bottom trawling is an oceanic type of commercial fishing where one or two boats drag a weighted, oval net across the bottom of the ocean. Once dragged, two wings extend on each side from the mouth of the net, forming a cone shape. The main purpose of this type of fishing is to capture the species of fish and other marine organisms living near or on the bottom of the ocean.
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Species Affected by Bottom Trawling

The fish that are targeted by this type of commercial fishing are shrimp, lobsters, crabs, cod, squid, halibut, sole, flounder, black scabbard fish, round nose grenadier, blue ling and other types of groundfish or semi-pelagic fish. In addition to the affects of bottom trawling on these fish, many other non-targeted species are affected by this form of fishing. These types of fish include fish, turtles, sea birds and marine mammals. Vital micro-organisms, nutrients and coral reefs are unintentionally destroyed by bottom trawls.

These are Some of the Affected Species

Problems of Bottom Trawling and How To Solve Them

Negative Effects:

Bottom Trawling is an extremely detrimental way to catch fish. Up to half of the discarded fish and other marine organisms is caused by this type of commercial fishing. When an animal that is not targeted is captured, it is shortly discarded. In most cases, these organisms do not survive. Scientists have figured out that for every pound of shrimp caught, three to ten pounds of marine organisms are thrown away. Up to 80% of fish and other organisms are discarded with each catch. This also impacts Ocean-based tourism as the number of most of the wildlife that people pay to see has been greatly reduced due to bycatch. These problems created by bottom trawling deeply affect the development of oceanic environments and ecological relationships between them.

Sustainability

Bottom Trawling is not consider a truly sustainable method of fishing and there are a number of obvious reasons for this. The first being that it has long been referred to as one of the most "indiscriminate kinds of fishing" in the entire world. This refers to the fact that the nets way at least a few hundred pounds and most trawling is done at random, so many species of sea life are unnecessarily harmed. Shrimp trawls in Panama end up throwing about 80% of their catch because it wasn't deemed their "target catch." Other than the serious bycatch problem, bottom trawling devastates anything that lays in its path. This means we are destroying vital organisms like coral reefs faster than they can regenerate. Lastly, the shear amount of fuel used to haul the nets plus the massive catch loads (many weighing multiple tons) solidify that bottom trawling is about as far from sustainable as it gets.
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Government Involvement

Government Regulations

After the destruction of more than 90% of the Oculina bank because of trawling, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council banned bottom trawling in much of the waters between North Carolina and Florida. The Pacific and North Pacific Fishery Management Councils banned bottom trawling in the Bering Sea, Pacific and Arctic oceans. In addition to this, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council banned bottom trawling around Hawaii and other Pacific islands part of the US territory. The US government has had a progressive view on regulating bottom trawling and this hopefully will help in establishing a federal ban in the nearby future.

Government Ban

If the government banned bottom trawling as a type of commercial fishing, it would be an important step not only against illegal fishing (destructive fishing gear causes a lot more problems with illegal fisherman), but also in ensuring a safer and more efficient way to catch marine organisms without harming non-targeted species. Overall, a government ban on bottom trawling would result in a rise of more productive and progressive ways of fishing that minimizes the harm of marine wildlife.
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What You Can do to Help

Obviously there is no way to halt a multimillion dollar fishing practice overnight or even in the next few years, but there are a few relatively simple things anyone can do to aid the process. First, if a fishing vessel looks harmful or particularly damaging to the environment, call the nearest coast guard. There are many cases per year of bottom trawling vessels illegally fishing; this could range anywhere from improper fishing equipment to fishing without a license, or even poaching protected sea life. Second, urge your local legislature to set up more protected marine environments by sending them a concise letter detailing your concern or a plan of action. Marine sanctuaries are growing all over the world and the amount of wildlife within them is staggering. The more places like these we are able to establish, the fewer fish populations will diminish. Last and perhaps most difficult, find a local charity willing to donate money to impoverished coastal communities around the world. Much of the most damaging bottom trawling exists where individuals have no other options than to comply with the big fishing companies that expect massive catches. Raising their standard of living will have a dramatic impact on the well-being of the harvested fish.

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