Chile Bans Bottom Trawling In Vulnerable Areas

New Wave Media

January 29, 2013

  • oceana
  • scientificammerican
  • oceana oceana
  • scientificammerican scientificammerican

Chile has become the first country to ban bottom trawling by passing the Chilean Fisheries Law. The law bans bottom trawling in the country's vulnerable marine ecosystems, including the precautionary closure of all seamounts in Chile, and establishes a system in which all fishing quotas will be based on scientific recommendation. It requires the implementation of reduction plans for by-catch and discards for every commercial fishery. The new law bans bottom trawling in all vulnerable marine ecosystems and includes the immediate closure of all 118 of Chile's seamounts to the destructive practice of bottom trawling, covering an area of 150,000 square kilometers. Seamounts are underwater mountain ranges where nutrient-rich water up wells from the deep, fueling large ecosystems. These areas are especially vulnerable to trawling. Expeditions by Oceana and National Geographic to a range of volcanic seamounts northeast of Chile's Easter Island uncovered flourishing communities of red corals, Galapagos sharks, butterfly fish and more. But very few of Chile's seamounts have been explored, and the profusion of colorful marine life they support was threatened with destruction before they could even be documented. For decades in Chile the status quo has been for the fishing industry to decide how much fish it would take, regardless of environmental concerns. Bottom trawling for fish stirs up billowing plumes of sediment that can be seen from space and destroys entire seafloor ecosystems. Several studies have shown the significant impact that trawling has on ecosystems, killing corals, sponges, fish and other animals. As nets are dragged across the seafloor, they can crush coral reefs, drag boulders across the bottom, and trap fish and animals that are not intended to be caught. Scientific studies showing the impacts that trawling has on ecosystems have led to increasing restrictions on the practice.



Image: NOAA/Oceana/Scientific American
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