Supertrawlers, also known as Factory Trawlers are excessively large trawlers that are able to stay out at sea for weeks at a time and often have facilities to not only catch fish but also to store and process them too.
What are the problems with supertrawlers?
We have discussed the problem of overfishing in the past and although supertrawlers might sound like a good, efficient idea in principle they are actually a contributor to the overfishing crisis. They are able to catch so much fish stock in one go, it can lead to massive depletion of vulnerable fish populations. There are even cases, such as the illegal dumping of 1.5 million kg of edible herring to make room for other, more valuable fish.
Some trawlers use deep nets which can lead to the destabilization of the seafloor. When nets drag along the seabed it can not only affects the bottom-dwelling creatures but it can alter currents and even the temperature. They endangered corals which have been growing for centuries which in turn can have a dramatic effect on the ecosystem that relies on the corals for food and somewhere to live. Greenpeace go into great and informative detail about the damage to the seabeds in their article here.
Environmental problems aside, these massive supertrawlers are devastating local fisheries and fishermen. As these ships are often far bigger than those of local fishermen they catch a lot more and are better equipped to stay out at sea for longer periods of time.
The biggest problem with supertrawlers is that they catch species indiscriminately leading to massive bycatch numbers, infact in 2019 one report found that over 1,100 porpoises died in fishing nets. Porpoise are not the only victims of bycatch when it comes to supertrawlers, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, seals and seabirds are all at risk of being caught unintentionally and killed indiscriminately. Over the last few years it has been noted that a stream of dead dolphins have been washing up on shores around the UK and France after getting caught up trawlers nets.
Greenpeace has been carrying out research into how long supertrawlers are spending fishing in protected areas in UK waters and they have found that in 2019 supertrawlers spent 2,963 hours fishing in 39 protected marine areas in UK waters. In 2020 they are on track to double that amount of time, as in the first 6 months they have already spent 5,590 hours fishing in 19 protected areas!
Sign The Petition
A volunteer at the Blue Planet Society named John Hourston started a petition to the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries to take urgent action to end this cruel and avoidable mass slaughter of dolphins by fishing vessels targeting pelagic fish species in EU waters.
There is also a petition from Greenpeace demanding the the UK Government bans supertrawlers in the UK’s Marine Protected Areas. These massive ships should not be permitted to fish in protected marine areas!
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