Bottom-trawling – regarded as one of the most-destructive fishing methods – could be largely replaced in European Union fisheries by far less-aggressive, readily-available fishing gears, according to a new report published by ocean protection organizations Seas at Risk and Oceana.
The report, “Exploring Alternatives to Europe’s Bottom Trawl Fishing Gears,” found that bottom trawling is the main fishing method used across Europe, accounting for 32 precent of total E.U. landings, or 7.3 million metric tons (MT). But the practice is responsible for 93 percent of all reported discards, equating to 1 million MT between 2015 and 2019.
Replacing bottom trawls with any of the 25 other types of gear commonly used by E.U. fishing fleets, such as purse-seines, set-gillnets, pots, or traps would dramatically improve fisheries resources, the report found. Altogether, catches from gear other than bottom trawls represent 66 percent of total E.U. landings, but generally have less-damaging effects on the environment.
“Alternative, less-aggressive fishing gears could partly, and reliably, replace bottom-trawling in European waters. More importantly, replacing this harmful fishing gear would make a considerable difference for the health of our ocean and our future,” Seas at Risk Marine Policy Officer Andrea Ripol said. “The European Commission must seize this opportunity in their upcoming ocean action plan.”
The report acknowledges that alternative gears can have their own associated environmental problems, especially in terms of bycatch of sensitive species. Where such environmental impacts on sensitive species cannot be avoided with technical measures, rather than switching to these gears, Oceana and Seas at Risk recommend an overall reduction in the amount of fishing in those areas.
This report comes as the European Commission is about to publish its action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems, which is intended to set a path to tackle the impacts of fishing to meet the E.U.’s biodiversity objectives in the ocean.