American Oceans

What is Bottom Trawling Fishing?

Fish and other marine life that reside close to the ocean’s bottom are caught using the fishing technique known as bottom trawling, which involves dragging a big net with a hefty weight down the sea floor.

trawling boat with nets out

Because it can harm or destroy habitats like coral reefs and sea grass beds, as well as cause the unintended capture and death of non-target species, this sort of fishing has the potential to have a large negative influence on the marine environment.

In the fishing business, bottom trawling is a contentious method since it may be quite indiscriminate and catch vast numbers of both target and non-target species.

Trawling vs Trolling

Trawling is the practice of towing a sizable net behind a boat through the sea. The net is typically supported or weighted to keep it open by a trawl door and can be dragged down the water column or along the ocean floor (bottom trawling) (pelagic trawling).

Fishing with a trawl

Commercial fishing vessels frequently utilize trawling to collect several fish and other marine animals simultaneously.

Contrarily, trolling entails using one or more lines that are pushed through the water behind a boat while being baited with lures or live bait. Sport and recreational fisherman frequently utilize trolling to target specific fish species. Depending on the target species, trolling lines can be set at various depths and speeds.

Despite the fact that both trawling and trolling can have an influence on the marine environment, trolling is regarded as less harmful than trawling.

Is Trawling Illegal?

Although some trawling methods and some places are restricted or forbidden, trawling itself is not necessarily criminal.

Fishing Boat Trawling for ground fish off the west coast of Canada

The government regulates trawling as a lawful fishing technique in many nations to guarantee that it is carried out sustainably and without endangering the marine environment.

To safeguard delicate habitats and populations, however, there are several instances when trawling is restricted to particular regions or for particular species.

Additionally, several nations have outlawed specific types of trawling that are thought to be particularly harmful, such as bottom trawling in deep-sea ecosystems or on coral reefs, or drift netting that can unintentionally trap and kill a lot of non-target species.

International organizations like the European Union and the United Nations General Assembly also have laws governing fishing, especially trawling, in international waters.

It’s crucial to remember that trawling rules and regulations might differ between nations and areas, therefore it’s best to check with the local authorities for the precise restrictions in a particular location.

What fish are caught by trawling?

mackerel caught by trawling nets

Trawling allows for the capture of a large range of fish and other marine life. The following are some of the most typical species taken by trawling:

  • Groundfish are animals that inhabit the ocean floor or an area close to it, including cod, haddock, flounder, and halibut.
  • Pelagic fish include species like mackerel, herring, and anchovies that reside in the open water column.
  • Shellfish: Species that are also caught by trawling, include shrimp, crab, and lobster
  • Cephalopods include animals like squid and octopus.

The term “bycatch” refers to the vast number of non-target animals that trawling may unintentionally catch and kill. Examples of these species include sea turtles, marine mammals, and seabirds.

For certain species, several types of trawling might be utilized. Pelagic trawling is used mostly for pelagic fish, while bottom trawling is used primarily for groundfish. Scallop trawling and shrimp trawling are both employed to catch scallops and shrimp, respectively.

It is usually best to verify with the local authorities for the exact regulations in a given area as rules on the kinds of fish that can be captured by trawling can differ between countries and areas.

Why should trawling be banned?

For a number of reasons, trawling has been a contentious fishing technique, and some people contend that it ought to be outlawed or subject to strict regulation.

Abandoned ghost fishing net left in the bottom

The following are some of the key arguments against trawling:

  • Impact on the environment: Trawling has the potential to significantly harm or destroy habitats including coral reefs and sea grass beds, as well as accidentally capture and kill non-target animals.
  • Unsustainability: Because trawling allows for the quick and efficient catch of huge numbers of fish, it can contribute to overfishing, which can reduce fish populations and upset the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.
  • Bycatch: Large numbers of non-target species, often referred to as bycatch, such as marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds, are frequently caught and killed during the trawling process.
  • Discards: Trawling frequently leads in the catch of undesirable or undersized fish, which are subsequently thrown back into the ocean, dead or dying, wasting resources and creating ecological imbalance.
  • Inefficiency: Some claim that trawling is an inefficient method of fishing since a sizable portion of the catch is not the intended species and cannot be utilized.
  • Socioeconomic: Trawling can have detrimental socioeconomic effects, including the eviction of local fishing villages and a reduction in the size of the stock for future generations.

These factors have caused some environmentalists and conservation organizations to urge for the prohibition of specific types of trawling, such as bottom trawling, or for more stringent rules regarding trawling in general.

Some contend that trawling is a significant source of food and revenue for many people and that it may be carried out sustainably. To preserve the marine ecosystem, it is crucial to maintain a balance between fishing activity and conservation activities.

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