CA - Once Controversial, Trawling Is Now Sustainable
Trawling has long been a practice steeped in controversy. It’s known for picking up everything in its path, resulting in overfishing, coral reef damage, and a significant by-catch of endangered marine life, including dolphins, sharks, and turtles.
So what prompted the Rockfish Conservation Area off Oregon and California to be reopened to groundfish bottom trawling on January 1, 2020?
A Brief History of Trawling in the Pacific Ocean
The comeback of this once devastated area is the result of several successful negotiations between fishermen and environmentalists and is now being heralded as a major sustainable fishery success story.
Here’s a timeline leading up to the reopening:
- 1976: Domestic fishing vehicle construction was subsidized by the government to encourage fishing in West Coast waters. Within a few years, 500 fishing vessels were bringing in 91 million kg of groundfish each year.
- 2000: Large areas of the Pacific Ocean were deemed disaster zones and closed to trawlers, devastating the livelihoods of many fishermen.
- 2005: Trawlers were bringing in a quarter of what they'd brought in during the 1980s, and there were just 75 vessels operating in the area.
- 2011: Trawlers were given fishing quotas for each species and compelled to fund independent observers to hand-count their haul. As a result of these measures, accidental trawling of overfished species declined by 80%.
- 2014: The Marine Stewardship Council certified 12 species in the area as sustainable.
- 2019: Regulators began planning the reopening of the Rockfish Conservation Area.
- 2020: Environmental groups and fishermen are working to revive the groundfish industry in this area while protecting endangered species and coral beds and preventing overfishing. Trawling is still banned in certain areas and in extreme depths to protect habitats that are essential to reproduction.