Acting on bottom trawling

We are determined to see an end to bottom trawling.

Bottom trawler dragging net and weights along the seabed.
Bottom trawler dragging net and weights along the seabed. Photo by Brian Skerry / National Geographic

Our many experiences with – and studies on – bottom trawling have made it clear there is no place for such atrocious fishing practices in a sustainable ocean future. Even in developed countries with supposedly strong fisheries management, many bottom trawl fisheries operate with little understanding or regulation of their effects on the environment. Some try to limit the damage of their bottom trawl fisheries with management practices and protocols that will never be affordable or realistic in most of the world.

Ending bottom trawling will relieve pressure on marine wildlife and their habitats, support communities engaged in selective fisheries, and rationalise fisheries governance and economics. It is time to target our take.

Annihilation fishing

As bottom trawling slides into annihilation fishing, it is becoming ever more urgent to end this egregious practice. In many regions, bottom trawlers now go to sea with no target species in mind. Rather, they are seeking any and all marine life, scouring the bottom to extract that last animal. No form of gear modification will constrain such fisheries. Making it worse, bottom trawlers ignore regulations on boat size and power with impunity. Some of the catch may be sorted from the rest. However, most of the catch is treated as one homogenous mass, sold for mere pennies per kilogramme for animal feed or aquaculture feed. The very low value of such catch is offset by government subsidies as well as fishers’ and owners’ misplaced hope that fishing will improve one day.

The only end point to such entirely destructive and unmanaged fishing is annihilation of marine life.  It must be stopped.

Bottom trawling must be phased out. In the meantime, we need to ensure that government favours selective fisheries, removes harmful subsidies, enforces laws that control trawling, and implements protected areas that exclude trawling.

We seek funds to generate a global response to annihilation trawling in Asia, and the associated trinity of environmental degradation, unsustainable seafood production and human rights abuse. Over the next five years, we will develop the analyses, alliances and actions to effect change for the region and, by extension, the rest of the world.

Our program includes the following elements, all of them well-developed and just awaiting resources:

  • Initiate an action group of diverse people committed to change through collaboration.
  • Analyse links among environmental degradation, unsustainable seafood production and human rights abuses associated with trawling.
  • Identify innovative leverage points for removing the pressures of trawl fisheries in our ocean.
  • Build and execute a plan of activities, using short time frames to propel action.
  • Create momentum for significant regional and global movement towards change.

Individual efforts can make a big difference if they are channelled carefully. Here are some ways you can help stop this atrocious waste of life, by using your vote, your money and your voice.

  • Insist that we target our take, ending bottom trawling through clear actions.
    • To favour selective fisheries.
    • To remove harmful subsidies that keep bad fishing practices afloat.
    • To enforce laws and rules that control bottom trawling.
    • To implement protected areas that exclude bottom trawling.
  • Choose seafood wisely
    • Avoid seafood caught by bottom trawls (e.g. shrimp and demersal fishes).
    • Avoid farmed seafood that depends on trawled marine life (e.g. shrimp!).
  • Talk about bottom trawling to everybody. Arouse awareness and indignation about this abominable fishing method.