Did Your Seafood Get To Your Plate From A Bottom Trawler?
Bottom trawling is a widespread industrial fishing practice that involves dragging heavy nets, large metal doors and chains over the seafloor to catch fish. Globally, some reports show that still around one-quarter of wild-caught seafood comes from bottom trawling. The major issue is that these heavy nets consume everything in their path, resulting in a high yield of by-catch and they cause permanent damage to the fragile structures on the ocean’s floor, destroying the future of entire ecosystems. They strip the seabed of life, destroy large areas of corals - off Florida and New Zealand, deep corals have been 97-99 percent destroyed by trawling - and damage the nursing and feeding grounds for many fish species. In short, bottom trawling is really bad news for the environment.
As consumers it is important we have an understanding how our food gets to our plate. If you are eating seafood, bottom-trawling targets bottom-dwelling species, such as:
- orange roughy
- pink ling
- blue grenadier
- silver warehou
If you are eating these, it is likely you are supporting this means of fishing. But the bottom trawlers don't only catch these species - everything in-between is caught, much of it thrown back in the ocean as "by-catch" or used for fish meal, fish oil or animal feed.
Bottom trawling for prawn can be particular wasteful. But if you think eating farmed prawns is the answer, think again!
Undercover investigations found Thailands booming prawn trade to be full of slave labour and environmental horrors, such as feeding "trash fish" (another way to say by-catch from the oceans) to the factory farmed fish. "The filthy lagoon water, a grim cocktail of several months’ worth of excreta and food waste, is simply washed out into what’s left of the surrounding mangrove forests or straight out to sea."
And this filth isn't just there, even on our home turf in Australia, when you keep millions of prawns in overcrowded conditions, diseases are rife and this year Australian farms saw millions of their prawns die from suffocation as they pumped chlorine into their waters trying to combat spreading illnesses. Plus there is also animal cruelty in the prawn farming trade as female prawns have their eye sliced open or cut off — usually without pain relief — to make them reproduce faster. It isn't the solution you hope for...
Bottom trawling can not continue without wrecking more havoc in our dire straits oceans.
US, New Zealand, Hong Kong have introduced partial or temporary bans after disastrous consequences in their oceans and in July this year Sri Lanka banned it completely and a prohibition of all deep-sea bottom trawling below 800 metres in all European waters was instated due to large outcries. The EU also brought in a new legally-binding regulation for closing any areas with vulnerable marine ecosystems to bottom trawling and much stricter requirements for onboard observers plus environmental impact assessments. It isn't perfect but it is a start in addressing the major destruction being caused by bottom trawling.
Unbelievably, given the global awareness of this important issues, Arctic waters that recently been opening for fishing due to ice melting and waters getting warmer, have also been opened for bottom trawling, despite major outcries from environmental groups. Mind boggling when we have proof from elsewhere what happens! Because areas of the Arctic have been protected by sea ice, they represent one of the last pristine refuges from trawling and need urgent protection to prevent them from suffering the same fate.