Bottom-trawling ban proposed for sensitive Alaskan waters

Paving the way for the largest fishing ban of its kind, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously last Thursday to ban bottom trawling on more than half a million square miles of ocean near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands — an area more than twice the size of California. Bottom trawling involves dragging weighted nets along the ocean floor, essentially bulldozing everything in their path, most notably deep-water corals and other sensitive habitat areas. Conservation groups applauded the move, of course, but so did fishing groups, recognizing that conservation is needed if the ecosystem is to continue producing healthy fish populations. The ban would apply largely to areas where little or no trawling is currently done, but it would limit the future spread of fishing. As bottom-trawl fisher David Fraser wrote to the council members, “If in the future we are unable to harvest up to our quotas, it doesn’t mean we should seek new fishing grounds. It means we need to reexamine whether we have been managing conservatively enough.”