The vast depths of our oceans are out of sight and out of mind for most of us. But for small-scale fishers and fishworkers, the human activities that impact life in our seas affect them on a daily basis. Healthy marine ecosystems underpin fishers’ livelihoods, and much of the vast diversity of life in our seas needs healthy seabeds to flourish. When we damage marine ecosystems through pollution, global heating, overfishing and habitat destruction, small-scale fishers and fishworkers feel it first; they are on the front lines of our ocean emergency.
The steady destruction of complex marine ecosystems has far-reaching consequences for small-scale fishers and fishworkers. Bottom trawling erodes the foundations of life in our seas by repeatedly dragging heavy chains, nets and rods across the seabed, reducing habitats to rubble, stirring up sediments and indiscriminately catching a wide variety of species – many of which are tossed overboard, dead or dying. Above the water, bottom trawlers compete with small-scale fishers for access to space, sometimes risking collisions with smaller fishing vessels at sea, and pumping large volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Small-scale fishers are the largest group of ocean users, yet their perspectives on environmental challenges like bottom trawling are often overlooked. This is detrimental to all of us, as small-scale fishers can be the best stewards of our oceans and the solutions they propose are informed by a deep understanding of marine life and the communities it supports.
That is why we are launching an interactive online map to platform the voices of fishers and fishworkers whose livelihoods are affected by bottom trawling. As well as highlighting the ways in which bottom trawling affects other fishers, the map presents solutions that work for them, allowing users to take action after listening to fishers’ perspectives. Scroll down to explore the map.