Bottom trawl fishing footprints on the world’s continental shelves

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 2:30pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2018
Date published: 10/2018
Authors: Ricardo Amoroso, Roland Pitcher, Adriaan Rijnsdorp, Robert McConnaughey, Ana Parma, Petri Suuronen, Ole Eigaard, François Bastardie, Niels Hintzen, Franziska Althaus, Susan Baird, Jenny Black, Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Alexander Campbell, Rui Catarino, Jeremy Collie, James Cowan, Deon Durholtz, Nadia Engstrom, Tracey Fairweather, Heino Fock, Richard Ford, Patricio Gálvez, Hans Gerritsen, María Góngora, Jessica González, Jan Hiddink, Kathryn Hughes, Steven Intelmann, Chris Jenkins, Patrik Jonsson, Paulus Kainge, Mervi Kangas, Johannes Kathena, Stefanos Kavadas, Rob Leslie, Steve Lewis, Mathieu Lundy, David Makin, Julie Martin, Tessa Mazor, Genoveva Gonzalez-Mirelis, Stephen Newman, Nadia Papadopoulou, Paulette Posen, Wayne Rochester, Tommaso Russo, Antonello Sala, Jayson Semmens, Cristina Silva, Angelo Tsolos, Bart Vanelslander, Corey Wakefield, Brent Wood, Ray Hilborn, Michel Kaiser, Simon Jennings
Journal title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Pages: 201802379
ISSN: 0027-8424

Bottom trawlers land around 19 million tons of fish and invertebrates annually, almost one-quarter of wild marine landings. The extent of bottom trawling footprint (seabed area trawled at least once in a specified region and time period) is often contested but poorly described. We quantify footprints using high-resolution satellite vessel monitoring system (VMS) and logbook data on 24 continental shelves and slopes to 1,000-m depth over at least 2 years. Trawling footprint varied markedly among regions: from <10% of seabed area in Australian and New Zealand waters, the Aleutian Islands, East Bering Sea, South Chile, and Gulf of Alaska to >50% in some European seas. Overall, 14% of the 7.8 million-km2 study area was trawled, and 86% was not trawled. Trawling activity was aggregated; the most intensively trawled areas accounting for 90% of activity comprised 77% of footprint on average. Regional swept area ratio (SAR; ratio of total swept area trawled annually to total area of region, a metric of trawling intensity) and footprint area were related, providing an approach to estimate regional trawling footprints when high-resolution spatial data are unavailable. If SAR was ≤0.1, as in 8 of 24 regions, there was >95% probability that >90% of seabed was not trawled. If SAR was 7.9, equal to the highest SAR recorded, there was >95% probability that >70% of seabed was trawled. Footprints were smaller and SAR was ≤0.25 in regions where fishing rates consistently met international sustainability benchmarks for fish stocks, implying collateral environmental benefits from sustainable fishing.

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