Bottom trawl fishing footprints on the world's continental shelves

Ricardo O. Amoroso*, C. Roland Pitcher, Adriaan D. Rijnsdorp, Robert A. McConnaughey, Ana M. Parma, Petri Suuronen, Ole Ritzau Eigaard, Francois Bastardie, Niels T. Hintzen, Franziska Althaus, Susan Jane Baird, Jenny Black, Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Alexander B. Campbell, Rui Catarino, Jeremy Collie, James H. Cowan, Deon Durholtz, Nadia Engstrom, Tracey P. FairweatherHeino O. Fock, Richard Ford, Patricio A. Gálvez, Hans Gerritsen, María Eva Góngora, Jessica A. González, Jan G. Hiddink, Kathryn M. Hughes, Steven S. Intelmann, Chris Jenkins, Patrik Jonsson, Paulus Inekela Kainge, Mervi Kangas, Johannes N. Kathena, Stefanos Kavadas, Rob W. Leslie, Steve G. Lewis, Mathieu Lundy, David Makin, Julie Martin, Tessa Mazor, Genoveva Gonzalez-Mirelis, Stephen J. Newman, Nadia Papadopoulou, Paulette E. Posen, Wayne Rochester, Tommaso Russo, Antonello Sala, Jayson M. Semmens, Cristina Silva, Angelo Tsolos, Bart Vanelslander, Corey B. Wakefield, Brent A. Wood, Ray Hilborn, Michel J. Kaiser, Simon Jennings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

482 Downloads (Pure)


Bottom trawlers land around 19 million tons of fish and invertebrates annually, almost one-quarter of wild marine landings. The extent of bottom trawling footprint (seabed area trawled at least once in a specified region and time period) is often contested but poorly described. We quantify footprints using high-resolution satellite vessel monitoring system (VMS) and logbook data on 24 continental shelves and slopes to 1,000-m depth over at least 2 years. Trawling footprint varied markedly among regions: from 50% in some European seas. Overall, 14% of the 7.8 million-km2 study area was trawled, and 86% was not trawled. Trawling activity was aggregated; the most intensively trawled areas accounting for 90% of activity comprised 77% of footprint on average. Regional swept area ratio (SAR; ratio of total swept area trawled annually to total area of region, a metric of trawling intensity) and footprint area were related, providing an approach to estimate regional trawling footprints when high-resolution spatial data are unavailable. If SAR was ≤0.1, as in 8 of 24 regions, there was >95% probability that >90% of seabed was not trawled. If SAR was 7.9, equal to the highest SAR recorded, there was >95% probability that >70% of seabed was trawled. Footprints were smaller and SAR was ≤0.25 in regions where fishing rates consistently met international sustainability benchmarks for fish stocks, implying collateral environmental benefits from sustainable fishing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
Pages (from-to)E10275-E10282
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • effort
  • fisheries
  • footprint
  • habitat
  • seabed


Dive into the research topics of 'Bottom trawl fishing footprints on the world's continental shelves'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this