For the first time scientists have estimated the impact of human activities on the deep sea floor. The findings demonstrate that bottom trawling is more destructive to the sea floor than any other of the recorded activities studied â€“ combined!
Despite covering approximately 60% of the Earth’s surface, only a tiny fraction of the deep sea floor has been studied.
The research, led by Angela Benn of the National Oceanography Centre and published via the online journal PLoS ONE, focused on an area of the North East Atlantic where human activities are particularly acute, and looked at five major human activities that affect the sea floor.
The study considered the immediate and long-term effects of the activities of laying communication cables, marine scientific research (both academic and fisheries related), bottom trawling, dumping of radioactive waste (currently banned), waste disposal and impacts from the oil and gas industry.
Using available data from 2005, they only evaluated the physical footprint of any activities, and not the more difficult to determine ecological impacts.
The report concludes that even on the most conservative estimates, bottom trawling had a larger physical impact than all the others combined and that despite having the largest impact on the sea floor, the total global marine catch from bottom fisheries is a mere 0.31% (2006 figures).
The report will be of no surprise to environmental concern groups such as Greenpeace, who have campaigned for years to have bottom trawling banned due to the vast amounts of destruction that occur from such activities.
For further details see the paper: Benn AR, Weaver PP, Billet DSM, van den Hove S, Murdock AP, et al. 2010 Human Activities on the Deep Seafloor in the North East Atlantic: An Assessment of Spatial Extent. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12730. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012730