Trawl fishing impacts on the status of seabed fauna in diverse regions of the globe

Tessa Mazor*, C. Roland Pitcher, Wayne Rochester, Michel J. Kaiser, Jan G. Hiddink, Simon Jennings, Ricardo Amoroso, Robert A. McConnaughey, Adriaan D. Rijnsdorp, Ana M. Parma, Petri Suuronen, Jeremy Collie, Marija Sciberras, Lara Atkinson, Deon Durholtz, Jim R. Ellis, Stefan G. Bolam, Michaela Schratzberger, Elena Couce, Jacqueline EggletonClement Garcia, Paulus Kainge, Sarah Paulus, Johannes N. Kathena, Mayya Gogina, P. Daniël van Denderen, Aimee A. Keller, Beth H. Horness, Ray Hilborn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
72 Downloads (Pure)


Bottom trawl fishing is a controversial activity. It yields about a quarter of the world's wild seafood, but also has impacts on the marine environment. Recent advances have quantified and improved understanding of large-scale impacts of trawling on the seabed. However, such information needs to be coupled with distributions of benthic invertebrates (benthos) to assess whether these populations are being sustained under current trawling regimes. This study collated data from 13 diverse regions of the globe spanning four continents. Within each region, we combined trawl intensity distributions and predicted abundance distributions of benthos groups with impact and recovery parameters for taxonomic classes in a risk assessment model to estimate benthos status. The exposure of 220 predicted benthos-group distributions to trawling intensity (as swept area ratio) ranged between 0% and 210% (mean = 37%) of abundance. However, benthos status, an indicator of the depleted abundance under chronic trawling pressure as a proportion of untrawled state, ranged between 0.86 and 1 (mean = 0.99), with 78% of benthos groups > 0.95. Mean benthos status was lowest in regions of Europe and Africa, and for taxonomic classes Bivalvia and Gastropoda. Our results demonstrate that while spatial overlap studies can help infer general patterns of potential risk, actual risks cannot be evaluated without using an assessment model that incorporates trawl impact and recovery metrics. These quantitative outputs are essential for sustainability assessments, and together with reference points and thresholds, can help managers ensure use of the marine environment is sustainable under the ecosystem approach to management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-86
Number of pages15
JournalFish and Fisheries
Issue number1
Early online date14 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • benthic invertebrates
  • ecosystem-based fisheries management
  • risk assessment
  • species distribution modelling
  • sustainable fisheries
  • trawling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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