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RI - URI professor part of a worldwide study on impacts of bottom trawling on health of seabeds

A worldwide study on the impacts of bottom trawling, which accounts for a quarter of the world’s seafood harvest and can negatively affect marine ecosystems, has found that seabeds are in good health where trawl fisheries are sustainably managed.

KINGSTON, R.I., — January 6, 2022 — A worldwide study on the impacts of bottom trawling, which accounts for a quarter of the world’s seafood harvest and can negatively affect marine ecosystems, has found that seabeds are in good health where trawl fisheries are sustainably managed.

The research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) by a team including co-author Jeremy Collie, Professor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, builds on recent international collaboration in this field and is the first worldwide study of its kind. It brings together data from 24 large marine regions around the world to establish a relationship between distribution and intensity of trawling activities and the biological state of seabeds.

Researchers, led by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, assessed the status of seabed biota, or marine organisms, on a scale from 1 (unimpacted) to 0 (fully impacted) and found that 15 regions studied had a status greater than 0.9, while three had a status less than 0.7, and 1.5% of all seabed areas studied had a depleted status of 0.

Lead author and CSIRO marine scientist Roland Pitcher said that the study shows that good management of fisheries contributes to better outcomes for the broader ecosystem.

“The results show that effectively managed and sustainable trawl fisheries are associated with regions having high seabed status of 0.95 or more,” said Pitcher. “Regions that had low seabed status scores were places where fish stocks typically are over-exploited and have ineffective management regimes.

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