Proposal to Phase Out Bottom Trawling in Northeast Atlantic Draws Mixed Reactions

A proposal from the European Commission to phase out bottom trawling
and bottom gillnetting for deep sea fishing fleets in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean
is drawing mixed reactions among fisheries interests in Alaska.
Word of the European Commission’s proposal came from the Pew
Environment Group, which praised Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime
Affairs and Fisheries, for “the bold proposal to finally put an end to these unsustainable
and destructive deep sea fishing methods.
“Marine scientists have roundly concluded that deep-sea bottom
trawling is the most direct and widespread threat to fragile deep-sea ecosystems,”
Pew said in its written statement. “If the commission proposal is adopted, it would
transform the EU into a global defender of deep-sea marine life by protecting vulnerable
deep-sea species and ecosystems from the harmful impacts of destructive bottom fishing.”
“Globally, bottom trawl fisheries are considered high impact,”
said Dorothy Childers, of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “Although Alaska
fisheries are managed more rigorously to prevent overfishing, account for bycatch
and protect certain habitat features, there are areas in our waters still exposed
to bottom trawling that are ecologically sensitive and important to community-based
small-scale fisheries.”
John Gauvin, a spokesperson for the Groundfish Forum, and Jim
Gilmore of the At-sea Processors Association, said, however, that the announcement
was not relevant to Alaska.
Gauvin said Alaska’s trawl, and other fisheries in federal waters
also, are managed to prevent overfishing and effects on habitats have been studied
and protections put in place. These include closed areas to protect coral concentrations
and gear modifications, which have reduced bottom contact from flatfish trawls by
90 percent, he said. The European Union proposal is targeted at banning development
of new deep-sea fisheries, fisheries that have no management in place, he said.
Gilmore said he found nothing in the announcement relevant to
Alaska, particularly the Pollock fishery, which is conducted using mid-water trawl
nets. Gilmore added that judging from the announcement, such a rule would affect
less than 1 percent of the EU’s annual landings and apply largely to previously
unregulated fisheries.