- Trawling by the world's fishing fleets
is disrupting the balance of ocean life and destroying countless creatures,
including commercially important ones, a group of marine scientists say.
- The ecological damage from trawling and
dredging is at least comparable to the toll from clear-cutting forests,
yet the problem has gone virtually unnoticed until now, the researchers
say in a series of studies in December's journal Conservation Biology.
- Trawling and dredging for fish ends up
crushing, killing and disturbing critical food and protection for young
cod and other fish, both the American Oceans Campaign and the Marine Conservation
Biology Institute said at a news conference Monday.
- Andrew Rosenberg, deputy director of
the federal National Marine Fisheries Service, says some of the groups'
conclusions are inaccurate and lack scientific backing. "I'm not sure
focusing on trawling is appropriate," he says.
- The environmentalists say these studies
confirm their fears.
- "It is more disturbing to the biosphere
than any other human activity, with the possible exception of agriculture,"
biologist Elliott A. Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Biology
Institute in Redmond, Wash., and an author of one of the reports, tells
the Washington Post. "It is certainly much more so than logging."
- Some trawlers' weighted nets scrape the
sea floor like giant rakes, scooping up fish and other creatures. Tens
of thousands of trawlers each year drag ocean bottoms twice the size of
the lower 48 states, the groups say.
- Every pound of desirable sea creatures
caught wastes four pounds of other marine life, according to the report.
It takes decades for some bottom life to regenerate after a trawler passes,
but trawlers generally return two years later, the groups say.
- While less than 1 percent of the world's
oceans are protected, the groups say as much as 20 percent need to be preserved.
They called on federal and state regulators and regional fishery management
councils to take action.
- "We're afraid they're oversimplifying
the problem," says Scott Smullen, a spokesman for the fisheries service.
- Peter Auster, science director of the
University of Connecticut's National Undersea Research Center, told the
news conference, "Our fisheries ... need the other components of marine
communities to be sustainable. That means if you care about fish and seafood,
you'd better care about tube worms, crustaceans and anemones, too."