Understanding the fishers to change the fishery: why did fishers start, stay, and stop bottom trawling?


This research analyses the nature of human dependence on bottom trawling as a necessary precursor to constraining its impact. Bottom trawling involves dragging a weighted net along the seabed, catching and/or damaging every organism in its path. Bottom trawling can negatively affect fishers, resulting in fewer opportunities for artisanal and small-scale fishers, diminished food security, increased human rights violations, and social and violent conflicts. This study focuses on India, where trawling started in 1956 and where 79% of total landings by trawls that targeted shrimp were unintended catches by 1979. While the obvious solution seems to be to limit bottom trawling, decision-makers are often challenged by conflicting economic, social, and environmental imperatives.

The objective of my study was to understand fishers’ motivations to start, stay and stop bottom trawling to better address challenges faced by decision-makers. I conducted a systematic literature review and incorporated a mix of peer-reviewed and grey literature. I found that the fishery and fishers chose to begin bottom trawling and stay in the industry primarily because of offers of subsidies, potentially better income, and likely profits. The bottom trawl industry persisted despite declining resources because of (i) the industries’ capacity to exert power which allowed them to extend a sunset business and (ii) poor enforcement of regulations that should have constrained trawling. I underline the entrenched nature of the trawl industry, where fishers were trapped in bottom trawling because of accumulated debt to people higher in the trade. Fishers stopped trawling when constrained by regulations, resource depletion, and low financial returns. Fishers’ motivations to participate in bottom trawling varied according to their role in the trawl industry, with owners often reaping more benefits from trawling than the crew. Recognising and addressing the results in my study will be crucial in determining how best to constrain bottom trawling effectively.

Mangar, R.S. (2022) Understanding the fishers to change the fishery: why did fishers start, stay, and stop bottom trawling? MSc dissertation. The University of British Columbia. http://hdl.handle.net/2429/83519