Betting on Rock Bottom
Seabed trawlers are almost universally reviled. Their lead-weighted nets scour the seabed, in the process destroying almost everything in their path. This 2014 article from The Guardian focuses on the problem:The Firth of Forth was once home to vast beds of oysters, for example. None remains. Similarly, the Firth of Clyde once abounded with fish, shellfish, whales and porpoises. Today its seabed is barren and its fish stocks have disappeared. "Nothing worth catching is left," states Callum Roberts in his book, Ocean of Life. "The Firth of Clyde gives us a stark vision of a life without fish."
And as bottom trawling and dredging continues, such a fate awaits most other UK inshore fisheries. "Trawlers have transformed life on the seabed, converting three-dimensional, complex habitats rich in coral, sponge and sea fan to endless monotonous expanses of shifting gravel, sand and mud," adds Roberts. Nor is the damage confined to the seabed. Stocks of fish – robbed of any hiding places on the seafloor – have suffered correspondingly. Common skate, angel shark, halibut and wolfish, once plentiful, have virtually disappeared from British waters while bottom fish – which cling to the seabed – such as cod, haddock and turbot, have suffered drastic declines in numbers.