Habitat Damage
Fishing's Future Depends on Habitat
Underwater fishing gear (Photo © Brian J. Skerry/National Geographic Stock)

Many fishing practices destroy fish and the places they live. Trawls and dredges that drag across the seafloor can destroy the delicate ecosystems that provide shelter, food and breeding grounds for fish and other species. In heavily trawled areas, it's the equivalent of clear cutting a forest.

The Fishing Method Matters

Among different fishing gear, bottom trawling and dredging are top offenders. In 2003 California replaced spot prawn trawls with traps, reducing seafloor damage and helping the state's rockfish population recover. In general, traps and pots cause less seafloor damage and catch fewer unintended species than other types of fishing gear that contact the seafloor.

Oceans Never Get a Rest

In Alaskan waters alone, bottom trawls remove over one million pounds of deep water corals and sponges from the sea floor each year. In many areas, marine life and seafloor communities have no chance to recover—parts of the North Sea off Denmark have been trawled up to 400 times a year!
What You Can Do

Support Ocean Policy
Support underwater parks
Establishing Marine Protected Areas is one of the best ways to ensure the ocean's ability to sustain life. These areas—like national parks on land—protect habitats important to maintaining healthy oceans.
Learn more about Marine Protected Areas

Smart Seafood Choices
Use our pocket guides
Seafood Watch pocket guides help you select seafood that is caught or farmed in ways that help promote healthy oceans. Choose from the green, "Best Choice" column. Otherwise, try a yellow "Good Alternative."
Download or print a pocket guide

Learn more about Wild Seafood Issues: