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Overfishing

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Fishing's Future Depends on the Seafloor

Gears that drag across the seafloor, like trawls and dredges, can destroy delicate habitats 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 non-targeted species than other types of fishing gear that contact the seafloor.

Our Ocean Never Gets a Rest

In Alaskan waters alone, bottom trawls removed over one million pounds of deep water corals and sponges annually from the seafloor between 1997 and 1999. 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

Use Our Consumer Guides

Our printable guides are broken down by region so you can find ocean-friendly seafood wherever you live or travel. Choose from the green "Best Choice" column. Otherwise, try a yellow "Good Alternative."

Rockfish

Story of Hope


Protected Areas Save Critical Habitat

Like national parks on land, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can be used to protect biologically rich ecosystems and help restore overfished populations. There is compelling evidence that MPAs have rapid and lasting effects and are proven to increase size, numbers and diversity in fish populations—even closing areas temporarily can be a powerful tool in fisheries management.

Currently, MPAs cover less than one percent of the world's ocean; by comparison, there's similar protection for four percent of Earth's land area. This trend is slowly changing as MPAs become more popular across the globe. Many nations have plans to protect 10 percent, or more, of their ocean areas with MPAs over the next decade—California is in the final stages of implementing the first statewide network of MPAs in the U.S.

Learn about aquaculture Related ocean issue resources