Deep-sea trawling puts ecosystems in deep trouble, says U.N. report

Deep-sea trawling is bad. How bad? Uh, pretty bad. Turns out raking gigantic fishing nets across the ocean floor shatters millennia-old coral, raises smothering clouds of sediment, and destroys underwater mountains. “It’s the equivalent of clearing old-growth forest to collect squirrels,” says researcher Alex Rogers, who helped prepare a draft U.N. report on the issue. More than half of the high seas suited to trawling lie outside national boundaries, so there are no regulations stopping boats from decimating populations of alfonsino, roundnose grenadier, and orange roughy (which — fish fact! — can live more than 150 years). U.N. delegates will discuss a trawling ban at an upcoming meeting; marine scientists call the case for a ban overwhelming, but fishing interests are likely to strongly oppose it. The director of Spain’s Fisheries Resources Department says ships trawl over “a platform of sand,” not “ecosystems that are in danger.” Yeah, and an alfonsino just flew by our window.