Scientists call for a stop on destructive fishing

In an appeal to the EU, over 200 scientists from all over the world address the fail to give marine protected areas real protection. The EU must immediately prohibit bottom trawling and other industrial fisheries within the protected areas, the scientists write.

Bottom trawling has a range of effects on the seabed, such as disturbance of the seabed and potential release of buried substances. Illustration: Evelina Jonsson/Azote.

The scientists state that there is no more effective way to conserve and restore marine life and to preserve the food security, than to keep areas of the ocean truly protected. The need for healthy ecosystems is also imminent because of their crucial role in mitigating climate change.

Protected areas need protection

The fail to adequately protect marine protected areas (MPAs) from destructive activities such as bottom trawling and other industrial fisheries makes for a poor conservation of the marine biodiversity. Due to the high-impact activities that are allowed in them, some of the MPAs in Europe have an even lower biodiversity than nearby unprotected marine areas.

Sofia Wikström, marine ecologist and researcher at the Stockhom University Baltic Sea Centre. Photo: Niclas Björling.

– Establishing more and larger trawl-free areas is important to protect sensitive species and habitats. Some studies also suggest that it may improve the capacity of the sea bed to sequester carbon, says Sofia Wikström, marine ecologist and researcher at the Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre.

Sofia Wikström stresses the importance of an overall reduction of bottom trawling, also outside of the MPAs:

– As the authors of the scientist call write, it is important that fishing is not simply moved from MPAs to other areas. We need to reduce bottom trawling and move to using gear with lower impact on the seabed and fish stocks.

Bottom trawling in Swedish Marine protected areas

Trawl doors may be several metres in diameter and weigh several tons. Photo: Clare Bradshaw.

In Sweden, bottom trawling is also carried out in many protected areas, especially in the Kattegat and Skagerrak. Two examples of marine protected areas in Sweden that are bottom trawled, are Bratten and Kosterfjorden in Skagerrak, where cold-water corals live.

– Kattegat and Skagerrak are among the most intensively bottom trawled areas in the world, says Sofia Wikström.

The Baltic Sea Centre has also called for an establishment of more and larger trawl-free areas. Read about our recommendations in the policy brief:

Bottom trawling threatens European marine ecosystems

Watch our video: Bottom trawling threatens ecosystems



Further reading

Scientists call for the prohibition of all destructive fishing methods and industrial activities in Marine Protected Areas

The Guardian: EU slammed over failure to protect marine life from ‘destructive’ fishing Skydda skyddade områden (in Swedish)

Natursidan: Forskare sågar EU:s skydd av hav och fiskar (in Swedish)

Bottom trawling threatens European marine ecosystems

Healthy coastal ecosystems are crucial to mitigate climate change

Reduce coastal trawling to protect the Baltic herring