Impact of bottom trawling on CO2 emissions

Researchers from Utah State University and National Geographic Pristine Seas have revealed how bottom trawling contributes to the release of significant amounts of carbon dioxide, posing a threat to marine life. Bottom trawling, a fishing method involving dragging massive nets across the ocean floor, has long been criticized for its destructive impact on marine ecosystems. The latest research shows that it is also a significant source of CO2 emissions.

Dr. Trisha Atwood points out that carbon, which could remain stored on the ocean floor for millennia, is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide during trawling. Studies indicate that approximately 370 million tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere annually due to this, which is twice the amount emitted by the global fishing fleet each year, comprising around 4 million vessels.

During bottom trawling, sediment is created, which rises in the form of massive clouds visible even from space. To locate bottom trawling sites between 1996 and 2020, the research team utilized the Global Fishing Watch database.

Using globally recognized models of carbon cycling in the ocean, scientists calculated the amount of carbon released during trawling that made its way into the atmosphere. Estimates indicate that between 1996 and 2020, the total CO2 emissions amounted to between 8.5 and 9.2 billion tons.

Regions with the highest emissions are located in major bottom trawling hotspots such as the East China Sea, Baltic Sea, North Sea, and Greenland Sea. Southeast Asia, the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Mexico may also be sources of CO2 emissions.

Research clearly indicates that addressing the issue of CO2 release into the atmosphere due to oceanic activities, including bottom trawling, is necessary to slow down global warming and rebuild marine ecosystems. As Dr. Sala emphasizes, reducing emissions associated with bottom trawling will bring rapid benefits to the environment.

Scientists have also examined what happens to the carbon that remains in the ocean after bottom trawling. They estimate that 40 to 45 percent of this carbon remains in the water, contributing to increased acidity in local ocean areas. This increased acidity negatively affects living organisms in areas affected by this type of fishing.

Gavin Schmidt from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies compares bottom trawling to deforestation, highlighting its visible and measurable impact on global climate warming.



About the author

Picture of Grzegorz Bubak

Grzegorz Bubak

My fascination with marine aquariums began over two decades ago when I stumbled upon an article about this topic in a magazine. Since then, the underwater world has become my obsession and passion, shaping my everyday life. I started my adventure with marine aquariums with soft corals, which were my first step into this fascinating world. Over time, captivated by the diversity and beauty of SPS corals, I decided to focus on their cultivation, which continues to fill me with constant wonder.

Thanks to my experience and passion for marine aquariums, I am ready to share my knowledge and expertise with other enthusiasts in this field. I am happy to be part of the Reef Pedia community, which serves as an invaluable source of information for all marine aquarium lovers.

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