End bottom trawling
Bottom trawling is bulldozing our ocean floor, undermining small-scale fisheries, and deepening the climate crisis. Let's end this destructive practice, starting with an immediate ban on bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas and inshore zones.
The ocean is a climate solution. Our shared seas absorb about 25 percent of human-driven carbon emissions, provide at least half the oxygen we breathe, support abundant, biodiverse fish populations and generate renewable energy that can end our reliance on fossil fuels.
Around the world, coastal communities represent more than one-third of the global population. These are also the people who will bear the brunt of rising sea levels and degraded ocean habitats. Actions like designating marine protected areas and mitigating industrial fishing can restore the ecosystems they need.
The ocean is medicine, whether it’s the waves that inspire joy, food that nourishes us or the central, sacred space it holds for coastal communities that have revered this resource for millennia. Keeping it healthy ensures that symbiotic relationship remains strong. Protect the ocean and it’ll continue to provide for us.
West Coast of Scotland
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Most asked questions
Through the destructive fishing method of bottom trawling, we are losing the marine environments that provide natural solutions to the climate crisis—including underwater forests, meadows, and marshes.
Patagonia is in business to save our home planet, and the ocean covers more than 70% of it. Our campaign aims to create momentum in support of the ocean, including its protection and restoration.
We connect committed individuals to environmental action groups through Patagonia Action Works, and this campaign will support NGOs and grassroots groups working to protect our ocean. Our campaign partners include Oceana, Bloom, ClientEarth, Seas at Risk, Blue Ventures, EJF.
Bottom trawling is the world’s most destructive industrial fishing method. Weighted nets are dropped from a boat and dragged along the seabed—bulldozing sensitive habitats as they harvest any and all marine life in their path. Places that once harboured life are left decimated, harming local fishing communities and the ecosystems they depend on.
Bottom trawling happens globally, but European waters are the most trawled. 50% of EU waters are regularly impacted, compared to a global average of 14%. (Source: Seas at Risk)
Bottom trawlers in European waters cause more direct and avoidable damage to the ocean floor than any other human activity (source: Oceana).
Marine forests and meadow destruction: When the trawler drags the net, it wipes out everything in its way. It takes between 1.9 and 6.4 years for seabed plants and animals to recover following trawling, and some may never recover. (Source: Transform Bottom Trawling)
Overfishing, bycatch and discard: Many marine animals are unintentionally captured by the nets, unable to escape. 92% of the 230,000 tons of fish discarded in Europe comes from bottom trawling—and that’s just what’s recorded. The real figure is thought to be much higher. (Source: WWF). Large fish populations have decreased 94% due to bottom trawling over the last century. (Sources: Oceana)
Carbon footprint and emissions: Bottom trawling has the highest emissions from fossil fuel use of any fishing method. Seafood caught by bottom trawling has equivalent or higher associated greenhouse gas emissions than most meat, except lamb and beef. (Source: Blue Ventures) Early-stage research suggests that the seabed sediments whipped up by bottom trawling could be releasing serious ‘sector’ scale emissions, contributing up to 1.46 Gt CO2- eq annually. (Sources: The Guardian & Enric Sala research)
Some parts of the ocean are designated as marine protected areas (MPAs). In the face of intense human pressure on the ocean, a network of well-managed and protected MPAs is critical for the conservation and protection of healthy and resilient marine ecosystems.
However, today just 12.4% of EU marine seas are designated as protected areas—from which only 1.8% have management plans, and 0.1% is strictly protected from any damaging activities. (Source: Seas at Risk)
Without effective management, designated MPAs provide little to no actual protection (Source: Oceana), as proven by the 2.5 million hours of bottom trawling observed inside MPAs in 2020 (Source: Oceana).
The European Commission recently announced a ban on bottom trawling in MPAs by 2030. But we need more ambitious targets, starting with an immediate ban on bottom trawling in MPAs. Our ocean can’t survive seven more years of destruction in the face of a worsening climate and biodiversity crisis.
We often hear that bottom trawling makes up a significant portion of Europe's fishing fleet—and subsequently the industry’s employment—but we don't hear about small-scale and low-impact fishers, who make up 60% of the fleet and around half of Europe’s fishing workforce (P41, Annual Economic Report EU Fishing Fleet 2022). According to the Low Impact Fishers of Europe, 4 out of 5 vessels in the region are less than 12 metres long and fish with non-towed gear. These smaller boats are regularly outcompeted by industrial bottom trawlers due to their size, scale, and catching power. Near the coast, trawling dramatically reduces the available catch for small-scale fishers using alternative, low-impact gear.
Added to this, the majority of subsidies and quotas are given out to those with the most catching power. Therefore, rather than improving employment opportunities, smaller-scale fishers fear their profession may disappear as it becomes less profitable and attractive to the next generation.
Alternatives to bottom trawling include 3D ocean seaweed farming, restoring seagrass, placing native oysters, and low-impact and small-scale fishing. Watch a series of Patagonia films dedicated to the stories of people taking matters into their own hands and showing us how we can work with, not against, our ocean.
Subsidies currently awarded to bottom trawlers, based on their fishing capacity, could be redirected to fleets and fisheries on the basis of their contribution to nature and coastal communities (Source: Seas at Risk). Because when marine areas are restored and protected, it’s beneficial for people and planet.
A 2021 study of the Llevant marine protected area in the Balearic Islands showed that the protected area generated €10 in benefits for each €1 of the €473,137 invested in the scheme. The 11,000-hectare MPA was set up at the request of the Cala Ratjada fishermen’s association in 2007 and has improved fishing in the area, slowed coastal erosion, and boosted water quality and biodiversity.
Take action by supporting ocean protection and restoration. Sign and share the petition, spread the word on social media, and write to your local MP.
Always ask how your fish was caught and refuse anything that was bottom trawled. Species likely to be trawled include cod, shrimp, hake, mullet, anglerfish and octopus.
Reduce and diversify your intake of seafood. Species such as Atlantic Cod are severely overfished. Therefore, cutting down on / substituting these species reduces pressure on them and benefits the marine environment and fish populations. Native oysters and mussels – grown in polycultures -- are good options, as is seaweed.
Support coastal community projects by volunteering or donating.