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Scientists Stir Ocean Floor To Boost Fish Populations

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Dutch scientists debate that under some circumstances, bottom trawling, which is normally viewed as destructive in marine conservation, can actually stimulate fish numbers and foster conditions that are better for fish. Michel Kaiser, a professor of marine conservation ecology at Bangor University in the U.K., calls this an ecological cultivation effect.

Twenty-three percent of the world’s fish catch comes from bottom trawling, according to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimate. Trawling targets flatfish species like yellowtail flounder, sole, and plaice, which feed on bottom-dwelling worms.

However, scientists need to develop a better understanding of bottom trawling to conclude its beneficial impact. “We need to think about the impact of trawling on a case-by-case basis,” said Kaiser. “This model can help us decide how best to harvest fish from a particular environment and ensure that we don’t use inappropriate techniques that would reduce the potential production of food.” Certain fishing zones could benefit from trawling to cultivate prey species and maximize fish yield. On the other hand, you can completely remove a habitat with trawling. The indirect food web interactions between fish and their prey need to be better studied.

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