Bottom Trawling…Is This Really What We Need?

Attempting to chronicle the ways that humans seem determined to destroy the environment that we all depend on for life seems to be an unending challenge. Climate change receives a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. It is far from the only man-made threat to our environment though. Another example that is not nearly so well-known is bottom trawling. Is this really what we need?

Bottom Trawling

Bottom trawling is a controversial marine fishing practice that involves dragging a net along the ocean floor. The practice is also sometimes referred to as dragging. A similar fishing method known as midwater or pelagic trawling drags a net slightly higher above the ocean floor. Each trawling method targets different species of fish. Bottom trawling is used to fish for species like rockfish, shrimp, squid, and cod.

Dangers Of Bottom Trawling

Scientists have known for years that this type of fishing is harmful to the environment. As the nets are dragged across the ocean floor, huge clouds of sediment are stirred up in the water. These sediment clouds are so large that they can even be seen from space. These sediment clouds linger long after they trawler has caused them. The clouds are only visible in shallow water, however, but it does allow scientists to understand what happens when bottom trawling is used for fishing.

This type of fishing is responsible for killing large numbers of fish, sponges, and coral. The practice is also responsible for the “accidental” killing of many fish and marine animals that are not being targeted, but are caught up with the targeted fish. It was once argued that bottom trawling simply scooped fish that were in front of the net, but new evidence shows it actually attracts nearby fish because of the sound and that these fish are also caught in the net after tiring and being unable to swim away.

Bottom trawling has been banned in some regions, but continues to be used in areas where it has not been banned or where there is no governing body to regulate the practice. An attempt by the United Nations to ban this type of fishing around the globe was not successful.

The growing scientific evidence of the dangers of this type of fishing has led to some countries banning the practice within their jurisdictions. The U.S. has banned the practice off much of the Pacific coast, and has restricted it in other coastal waters. The European Union has banned it off the Scotland coast. Norway has restricted the practice in sensitive waters, while Canada has restricted it off the coast of Nova Scotia. Australia, New Zealand, and Palau have also taken steps to at least restrict it. Meanwhile, bottom trawling continues to be used in many areas.


What do you think about aggressive fishing practices like bottom trawling? Is it okay to indiscriminately destroy marine life in order to catch one target species?




Robert Witham
Robert Witham
A freelance writer and journalist, I am also a wandering minimalist. I never sit still for too long in one place. When I am not writing I can be found reading, enjoying a good cup of coffee, hiking, fishing, installing a new OS on my laptop, or building a website.