Giant Trawlers Are Gobbling Up Fish in Critical Marine Ecosystem

Industrial fishing operations are scouring the waters of the Barents Sea around Norway,threatening more than 200 fish species and potentially endangeringmillions of seabirds, seals, whales, sharks, and walruses.

Using satellite data and field work, researchers for Greenpeace spent three years documenting the devastating impact industrialtrawlers have hadon whatmany scientists call the “Arctic Galapagos.” In their report, “This Far, No Further,” Greenpeace concludes that”the largely unexplored and vulnerable northern part of the Barents Sea ecosystem is at the mercy of destructive fishing practices, due to the current lack of action to protect it by the Norwegian government or the fishing and processing companies.”

The report specifically implicates companies like Birdseye, Findus and Iglo, which are buying millions of pounds of cod fish caught by the destructive trawlers, as well as haddock, northern prawns and halibut. Greenpeace wants food companies, restaurants and retailers to refuse to traffic in fish caught in the Barents Sea. They are also calling for the Norwegian government to create an off-limits zone in the region.

There are several reasons why industrial trawling is such a big problem. First, itis simply “one of the most destructive methods of fishing,” says marine conservation biologist Calum Roberts, a professor at the University of York, England. “Over the last 200 years, it has converted once rich and complex seabed habitats to endless expanses of shifting sands and mud.”

The trawlers are “weighted with heavy metal rollers; they smash and crush everything in their path.” They can destroy deep-water coral reefs and kelp forests that provide food and breeding grounds for all manner of oceanic wildlife.

The sheer volume of fish that trawlers can catch is also extraordinary. Overfishing has already caused fisheries in other parts of the world to collapse, to the point where some scientists believe we could not just overfish but outfish the oceans by 2050. The increasing number of trawlers, fish processors, exporters and distributors that are now operating in the Barents Sea are putting the entire ecosystem there at risk, as well.

Plus, trawlers catch millions of other animals besides fish. “According to some estimates,as much as 40 percentof fish caught around the globe is discarded at sea, dead or dying,”reports Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts. That means millions of whales, turtles, seals, seabirds and other marine life are indiscriminately being caught, killed and thrown back into the sea.

Greenpeace and other conservationists are advocating establishment of a marine reserve to put the most sensitive areas of the Barents Sea completely off-limits to all extractive uses. The organization is also urging fish processors to stop doing business with suppliers that are fishing the northern Barents Sea waters.

Consumers, meanwhile, can put pressure on retailers not to buy fish from producers that can’t document that their fish did not come from the Barents Sea.

Consumers can alsoalso consult the recommendations made at, a resource created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California to help people choose seafood that’s been farmed or fished in ways that minimize their environmental impact.

Overfishing is Actually Worse Than We Thought
12 Problems with Ocean Fish Farming

Photo Credit: g.norðoy

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Giant Trawlers Are Gobbling Up Fish in Critical Marine Ecosystem

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