By Faranak Bakhtiari

Trawling: a catastrophe that must be stopped

September 18, 2021 - 17:3

TEHRAN – The obvious violations of trawling vessels in the southern coast of the country in recent years, despite the dissatisfaction of locals, have posed a serious threat to the marine ecosystem, that must be stopped to prevent its irreparable damages.

Trawling is a method of fishing that involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats. Trawling can be divided into bottom trawling and midwater trawling, depending on how high the trawl (net) is in the water column.

Trawling, which has been widely criticized for its use, causes damage to the seabed and coral reefs. It is estimated that each time the trawl net is pulled, about 5 to 25 percent of the seabed living environment is lost.

Davood Mirshekar, head of the marine ecosystem protection office at the Department of Environment (DOE), told YJC that “due to the special ecosystem sensitivities in the Persian Gulf and also the adverse effects of climate change on biodiversity, we are opposed to any kind of trawling in the Persian Gulf.

Each time the trawl net is pulled, 5 to 25 percent of the seabed living environment is lost. However, due to the social consequences of unemployment in local communities, the DOE agreed with only traditional shrimp fishing in 3 coastal provinces of the Persian Gulf (Khuzestan, Bushehr, and Hormozgan) in two time periods of 30 to 45 days (summer and autumn) and in the Oman Sea based on time and place restrictions outside the coastal waters.”

“So that, the DOE in cooperation with the Fisheries Organization has developed the guidelines for trawling in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman.

The instructions for trawling in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman specify which vessels can trawl in what area and at what time, and which species can be harvested,” he explained.

Referring to the third way of trawling, he said that “bottom trawling is a fishing practice that herds and captures the target species, like groundfish or crabs, by towing a net along the ocean floor.

The bottom trawling causes large-scale damage to the seabed by pulling heavy fishing nets on the seabed. It can also lead to the breaking of coral reefs, the destruction of grasslands, damage to important habitats, the death of endangered species, and the extinction of marine ecosystems.

It also greatly reduces the biomass of seabed species, alters the composition of the marine ecosystem, suspends sediments, and disrupts the biogeochemical cycle that supports ecosystem function.”

Midwater trawling also may lead to unintended capture of marine mammals (dolphins, porpoises, and whales) and other endangered species, he further lamented.

Since 2001, the DOE has taken various measures to reduce the effects of trawling in order to exercise environmental monitoring and stop trawling in southern Iranian waters, but there are still more than 10 trawling vessels. In Hormozgan province, at least 10 trawlers were seized due to environmental violations.

Challenges on the way to stop trawling

In general, the lack of a restraining law in the field of environment to prevent illegal and irresponsible fishing is considered the main legal problem, he highlighted.

It should be noted that according to the law on hunting and fishing, matters related to fishing and its monitoring are the responsibility of the DOE only in wetlands, on rivers and areas under the management of the organization, while in sea and water areas, the Fisheries Organization is the responsible body, so that the lack of a responsible organization can be a barrier to stop trawling.

Also, the lack of a stable budget for the protection of the country's marine environment, the lack of specialized and trained manpower, the lack of a suitable and equipped vessel for environmental patrols and activities in coastal waters, the lack of new technologies in monitoring the marine environment, the lack of access for tracking fishing vessels and inadequate training of the public by media are other problems in monitoring the violations, he added.

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