To Save Valuable Ecosystems, Scientists Call for Reduction in Trawling Subsidies
February 28, 2007 -- A reduction in fuel subsidies would make some forms of deep-sea fishing economically unviable and allow vulnerable ecosystems to survive, according to a group of leading international scientists.
Bottom-trawling -- a form of fishing that increases the risk of species depletion and destroys coral species -- receives over $150 million in subsidies, most of which are for fuel, said marine researchers from the University of British Columbia. By eliminating the fuel subsidies, bottom-trawling fleets would operate at a loss of $50 million annually, thus making them impractical. Continuation of the subsidies will lead to the eventual depletion of fisheries and destruction of the valuable climate archive provided by corals, the researchers explained.
In an attempt to promote sustainable fishing, the United Nations tried to have bottom-trawling banned in 2006, but the talks fell through and the practice continues, with dedicated bottom-trawling fleets in 11 countries.
The National Research Council has a number of reports that discuss the effects of trawling. Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems indicates that trawling exemplifies why conventional, individual species-focused marine management is not sufficient to handle the problems of marine ecosystems. Trawling can damage critical habitats and unintentionally capture large quantities of other sea life, thereby putting great pressure on the ecosystem.
In order to mitigate the harmful effects of trawling on U.S. fisheries, Effects of Trawling and Dredging on Seafloor Habitat recommends a balance of fishery management approaches that includes reducing the intensity of fishing activities, modifying fishing gear to decrease the impacts of trawling, and closing off areas that can be easily damaged.