Scientists have recently released video footage for the first time that shows how pot fishing causes severe environmental impacts. New research has shown that the industry of pot fishing worldwide may have an even worse effect on seabed species, such as sponges and corals than previously realized. The study was published in the journal Marine Environmental Research.
Recording the Pot Fishing Process
University of Plymouth researchers conducted the study by attaching video cameras on the pots used by lobster and crab fishermen off England’s southern coast.
They recorded the damage inflicted by the pots on the rocky seabed reefs and the many species which inhabit them. The recovered footage showed how 14 out of 18 marine species suffered from the pots as they were hauled back to the surface.
Adverse Effects on Marine Life
The study’s findings contradict what was previously believed: that the effects of pot fishing on the seafloor were considered minimal.
In light of this new finding, the researchers want their research to be considered by fishing communities, managers, and the authorities in determining the acceptable impact levels of this fishing practice. It is especially crucial when potting operations occur inside MPAs or Marine Protected Areas.
Lead researcher and University of Plymouth Marine Conservation Lecturer Dr. Sarah Gall says that their study first quantified potting’s actual effects. Even if areas used in pot fishing contain species that indicate a robust reef ecosystem, they do not have the expected level of species abundance, diversity, and richness that a healthy system should have.
The Need for Proper Management
She says that their video footage shows how 25 to 30 percent of the seabed species were dislodged or damaged; particular worrisome are the affected species that are slow-growing and long-lived. Future pot fisheries management must ensure reef system health and potting industry sustainability.
The University conducts extensive research conservation initiatives impacts on MPAs and other areas. It also has a long-term Lyme Bay monitoring program, off the coasts of Devon and Dorset.
Research there has shown that restrictions in the volume of coastal potting operations for lobsters and crabs inside MPAs may be a “win-win” situation for fishermen as well as the marine ecosystem.
Lyme Bay Project leader, marine ecology associate professor, and senior study author Dr. Emma Sheehan says that their current project shows that fishing communities acknowledge the need to prevent environmental damage to ensure that their livelihoods can be sustained in the long run. She says that their new study is critical because it shows evidence for the first time the threat that pot fishing can pose to the marine environment.
She adds that this has a potentially global impact, which the pot fishing industry should address. The researchers are currently working with coastal and conservation managers to hopefully develop a viable solution that addresses the environmental impacts and satisfies the interests of the pot fishing industry.
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