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Podcast: ‘Destructive & flawed’: Claire Nouvian on bottom trawling’s many impacts

One of the many passing bottom trawlers on the NW Iberian Shelf as seen from Research Vessel METEOR. Location: NW Iberian Shelf, Atlantic Ocean. Image by Ferdinand Oberle. Public Domain.

  • Goldman Environmental Prize winner Claire Nouvian joins the Mongabay Newscast to discuss the many impacts of bottom trawling and a historic policy shift by the European Commission to rein in the practice.
  • This kind of fishing is known for damaging deep-water coral reef ecosystems and marine biodiversity, and for having a heavy carbon footprint.
  • Nouvian discusses the successful activism of her organization that won an EU-wide ban on bottom trawling below 800 meters (875 yards) after seven years of grassroots organizing. She also discusses what individuals can do if they want to support more sustainable fishing practices.

Editor’s note: Following the publication of this podcast, Spain’s Minister of Fisheries announced that the EC will allow Spanish trawlers to fish in 41 of the 87 areas where it is banned, after he appealed the EC’s original decision.

The European Commission (EC) made headlines recently for moving to protect an area half the size of Belgium in the North Atlantic from the destructive fishing practice of bottom trawling. Known for its damage to delicate marine biodiversity like deep-water corals, upon which much marine life (and many humans) depend, the practice produces comparatively few marketable fish versus other fishing methods, and a study shows that its carbon footprint nearly equates to the yearly emissions of the entire aviation industry.

Listen here:

Activist and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Claire Nouvian joins the Mongabay Newscast this week to detail her organization’s seven-year journey that led to a French ban on bottom trawling and, subsequently, an EU-wide ban on the practice. She talks about the importance of cold-water coral reefs and other deep-water marine ecosystems, and how critical they are for carbon storage and sustaining marine life in the ocean upon which billions depend. She also explains where bottom trawling occurs, how consumers can avoid fish produced from it and the importance of supporting legislation and action to ban the use of bottom trawling gear.

A deep-sea coral, Paragorgia johnsoni, with a large, brisingid sea star on its base, pictured in the New England Seamount chain. Image © The Mountains-in the Sea Research Team, IFE, URI-IAO, and NOAA.

While the recent EC announcement is a step in the direction of marine conservation, Nouvian says their work is “never done.” Opposition from fishing lobbies remains constant, so she shares what makes her organization effective in producing conservation wins, and what other conservationists should do in the face of long odds.

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Banner Image: One of the many passing bottom trawlers on the NW Iberian Shelf as seen from Research Vessel METEOR. Location: NW Iberian Shelf, Atlantic Ocean. Image by Ferdinand Oberle. Public Domain.

Mike DiGirolamo is Mongabay’s audience engagement associate. Find him on Twitter @MikeDiGirolamo, Instagram or TikTok via @midigirolamo.

Scientists map the impact of trawling using satellite vessel tracking

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