Scraping the bottom: Are towed fishing gears a threat to benthic biodiversity?

Michel J. Kaiser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bottom fishing activities are probably the most important source of anthropogenic physical disturbance to benthic habitats and communities. As such, they have great potential to permanently alter benthic community structure and reduce habitat complexity. This may have negative effects on populations of commercially important species. Damage of hard substrata that are important for the attachment of certain sessile species will lead to permanent habitat changes. Removal of sessile epifauna will reduce habitat topography. However, providing the substratum remains suitable for recolonisation by sessile species, regeneration of the habitat is possible. Species that provide the greatest topographic relief tend to be slow growing, hence regeneration (if it occurs) will take > 5 yrs. In contrast to these habitats, coarse sediment communities tend to exist in areas subjected to frequent natural disturbances. The sessile epifauna and infauna found in this environment are smaller in size and faster growing. These organisms are adapted to a perturbed environment and their populations are able to withstand the additional disturbance from fishing activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-270
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Benthic community
  • Fishing disturbance
  • Habitat complexity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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