How deep-sea bottom trawling costs the EU money and jobs and damages our valuable ecosystems
Aniol Esteban, Stephen Devlin
19 November 2013
Vulnerable deep-sea species and habitats are subject to some of the most destructive fishing practices still in use by EU fleets.
Deep-sea bottom trawling causes significant environmental damage and fails to make a positive economic return. Such activities are heavily subsidised by EU taxpayers. EU authorities now have a chance to stop this waste of economic, environmental and social value.
Deep-sea bottom trawling is detrimental not only to deep-sea ecosystems but to our economies, societies and the wider environment. Bottom trawl operators don’t pay these costs – we do. This briefing presents the economic, social and environmental case for a phase-out of deep-sea trawling.
The costs of the deep-sea fishery in EU waters are disproportionate to its commercial significance, accounting for only 1.5 per cent of the catch in the North-East Atlantic. We present evidence that each tonne of fish caught by deep-sea bottom trawling represents a cost to society of between €388 and €494. This is considered conservative since it does not include the significant costs to valuable deep-sea ecosystems, which are difficult to estimate.
Of all fishing practices, EU data suggests that trawling is among the lowest in terms of number of jobs sustained per tonne of fish. Methods such as long lining could sustain six times as many jobs and are not as harmful to the environment and ecosystems. These gear types distribute relatively more of the benefits of fishing to people rather than to fuel companies and business profits.
Deep-sea bottom trawling is costly to the economy, society and the environment. In the EU we not only permit these activities but also subsidise them. This December a plenary vote of the European Parliament will provide the opportunity to adopt a phase-out of the most destructive deep-sea fishing methods, so that the European taxpayer must no longer subsidise socially, economically and environmentally costly activities.
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