A GLOBAL study of the impacts of bottom trawling by Bangor University has found that seabeds are in good health where trawl fisheries are sustainably managed.

The first study of its kind, by the university with collaborating research institutes, published this week in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Science’, builds on recent international collaboration.

It brings together data from 24 large marine regions around the world to establish a relationship between distribution and intensity of trawling activities and the health of seafloor communities.

Researchers assessed life on the seabed ascribing a status score between zero and one, where zero is impacted and one is unimpacted.

A total of 15 regions studied were in a good condition with a status greater than 0.9, while three had a degraded status of less than 0.7.

In all regions combined, 1.5 per cent of all seabed areas studied were in a poor condition, with a status of zero.

Professor Jan Geert Hiddink, of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences, said: “When comparing the seafood production versus the impacts of bottom trawling relative to other human land-use footprints in the UK, like agriculture, is it clear that the footprint of bottom trawls around the UK is large, but that the impact of trawling in much of this footprint is limited.

“Nevertheless, many areas are intensely trawled and have low seabed status; for example, in muddy areas where Norway lobster is targeted in the Irish Sea using otter trawls.

“These areas are priorities for new research to map sensitive seabed habitats and assess their exposure to and risks from trawling.

“The work provides a valuable data source and guidance for policy makers and managers seeking to manage commercial trawl fisheries sustainably."