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Deep-sea trawling for seafood is destroying pristine marine habitats

Friday, August 06, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: seafood, habitat, health news

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(NaturalNews) The fishing practice known as deep-sea trawling is devastating pristine marine habitats that provide critical habitat for sea life, a prominent marine biologist has warned.

"I've seen areas that are pristine and untouched since the ice age and these are worth protecting," said Jason Hall-Spencer of Plymouth University, a researcher involved in the Census of Marine Life. "The coral is white or bright orange, and there are fans as high as your chest. These are particularly vulnerable to trawling. Unlike shallow water reefs, they don't have to be strong enough to withstand large waves and they can't cope."

Trawling consists of dragging massive, heavy nets across the ocean floor that scoop up all life in their path. Attached to the bottom of the nets are rubber rollers known as "rock hoppers," which allow the nets to jump over obstacles. Although the technique was initially developed for shallow waters with smooth floors, collapsing fisheries have pushed it out into the deep oceans where the floors consists of rough terrain such as reefs and mountains.

The Census of Marine Life is a global effort to catalogue ocean life. According to Halls-Spencer, only 1 percent of an estimated 50,000 known seamounts have been surveyed to date.

"Our research visits have revealed pristine coral reefs and many species that are brand new to science," he said. "Over the past five years, these surveys have also worryingly revealed that all over the world, deep-sea habitats are suffering severe impacts from bottom trawling."

A number of countries have banned deep-sea trawling in specific sites off their waters, but Hall-Spencer says international action is needed.

"It doesn't matter what ocean you go to, these habitats are being trashed by international fishing fleets," he said. "What is urgently needed is a network of protected areas where any type of fishing gear that involves dragging equipment across the sea bed is banned."

Sources for this story include: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/18/d....

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