Fishing trawlers that scrape the seafloor with nets are altering the submarine landscape and may affect sensitive marine ecosystems, according to researchers.
Likening the effect of bottom trawling to agriculture plowing or forest clear-cutting on land, marine scientists say the practice has flattened undersea slopes across the globe. In the process, the fishing equipment threatens the diversity of sea life by altering their habitat.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, listed 24 coastal areas that had probably been altered by trawling, including fisheries off Northern California and in Morro Bay. The areas measured between 1,200 and 4,500 feet deep.
As a case study, lead author and marine geologist Pere Puig and colleagues examined a shrimp fishing region off Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Puig, of Barcelona’s Institute of Marine Sciences, used remote-controlled submarines to document gouged and flattened areas along trawling routes.