Imagine this: the way deer were hunted is to line up 100 bulldozers, and send them forward over miles of rangeland to scrape everything — trees, brush, squirrels, birds, dogs, foxes, everything in the landscape — into a big pile, and then the drivers would jump out and pick through the debris to pull out any deer. They’d leave behind a wasteland, and a wasteful pile of wreckage, and photographers and journalists would descend horrified on the mess and pillory the perpetrators.
I don’t think we’d stand for it. It would also be completely unsustainable — each pass would destroy the land and it would take decades for it to recover.
But apparently, if it takes place underwater and you can’t see it, it’s OK. Christie Wilcox explains the consequences of trawling.
“Deep-sea trawling is currently carried out along large sectors of the oceans, and it appears to have severe consequences on deep-sea sediment dynamics at a global scale,” the authors write in their conclusions. “Cumulatively, the impacts of trawling on the sediment structure, the benthic biodiversity, and the most basic of all the nutritional resources in these deep-sea sedimentary ecosystems resemble the catastrophic effects caused by man-accelerated soil erosion on land.” Their results show that trawling is a scorched-earth way of fishing that leaves little behind to rebuild. Not only are fish, corals, and invertebrates wiped from an area with each sweep, the very nature of the sea floor is altered by chronic trawling. Since upwards of 98 percent of all marine species live on or immediately above the sea floor, such dramatic changes in sediment biodiversity and chemistry are bound to ripple outward. These data explain why deep sea communities affected by trawling take longer than expected to recover, if they can recover at all.
“Intensive and chronic bottom trawling is deemed to transform large portions of the deep continental slope in to faunal deserts and highly degraded seascapes,” write the authors. “With deep-sea trawling currently conducted along most continental margins, we conclude that trawling represents a major threat to the deep seafloor ecosystem.”
We wouldn’t tolerate deer hunting with bulldozers, so why is it so difficult to get international policy to end this destructive practice?