Fishing gear commonly used to catch shrimp and bottom fish like cod and haddock, can cause long-term damage to sensitive marine ecosystems (1). For example, bottom trawlers drag nets along the seafloor sometimes with “rockhopper” gear attached (such as old tires) to catch fish living between rocks and reefs. Another damaging method known as dredging pulls nets with a chain mesh base through soft sand or mud to catch scallops and sea urchins. These fishing gears severely destroy the ocean floor and damage the places where fish feed and breed.
Most of the damage done by trawlers and dredges is irreparable. Off the Australian coast, for example, bottom trawlers destroyed coldwater corals that were over 700 years old. That small area alone will take centuries to recover. Also, many areas of our ocean floors are repeatedly trawled or dredging further compounding the devastation. Marine scientists estimate that parts of the North Sea (off Denmark) are trawled up to 400 times per year (1).
1. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Seafood Watch Program. www.seafoodwatch.org. Accessed March 16, 2007.