The capacity of benthos release panels to reduce the impacts of beam trawls on benthic communities
Review articleOpen access

AbstractEcosystem-based fishery management requires that both a fishery and the environment associated with that fishery should be sustainable. Beam trawling has widespread effects on the biomass, production and diversity of benthic communities and in some fisheries, the impact is deleterious. Beam trawls impact benthic communities because the ground gear crushes and dislodges animals on the seabed, and because animals are caught in the trawl and subsequently die. Based on a study of the relative performance of seven designs of benthic release panels in commercial beam trawl fisheries, we demonstrate that panel designs consisting of 150 mm × 5 mm ø double polyethylene square mesh or 150 mm × 6 mm ø single polyethylene square mesh, respectively, reduced invertebrate bycatches by 75 and 80%, and that >90% of the animals released survived. We conclude that the use of benthic release panels may reduce the overall environmental impact (expressed as invertebrate mortality) of beam trawl fisheries by 5–10% without affecting their profitability. Other techniques to reduce the environmental impact of beam trawling are also discussed.

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