Author: Rebecca Kessler
Marine biologists have been raising concerns about bottom trawling for years. The fishing technique involves a boat dragging a weighted net along the seafloor, scooping up whatever marine life swims or sits in its way. In their pursuit of commercially valuable seafood, not only do bottom trawlers unintentionally kill or injure non-targeted creatures as bycatch, they can disrupt the marine habitat itself and kick up sediment plumes that smother nearby organisms.
While the technique is widely acknowledged to be destructive, seahorse expert Amanda Vincent is calling attention to a new problem. She and her colleagues are finding that in parts of Asia and elsewhere, bottom trawlers are no longer targeting particular species at all. Instead, she says, it’s any and all sea life they’re after, for processing into chicken feed, fishmeal and other low-value products.
She has coined an unsettling term for these catch-all fisheries: “annihilation trawling.”
Vincent is currently on a year’s sabbatical from her post at the University of British Columbia, traveling around the world with her family and contributing to marine ecology along the way. Mongabay spoke with her by Skype this fall while she was in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, where this kind of trawling is common.
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