Pot fishing could be damaging the marine environment Photo: University of PlymouthPot fishing could be damaging the marine environment Photo: University of Plymouth

The global pot fishing industry could be having a greater impact on corals, sponges and other species found on the seabed than previously thought, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Plymouth attached video cameras to pots used by crab and lobster fishermen off the south coast of England. The resulting footage showed that of the 18 species observed, 14 suffered damage as the pots were hauled from the seabed.

The findings go against previous thinking around the damage caused by pot fishing to the seabed, with research carried out until now regarding its potential impact as minimal.

Dr Sarah Gall, lecturer in marine conservation at the University of Plymouth, led the research as part of her PhD studies. “This is the first study to quantify the true footprint of potting,” she said. “The footage we obtained shows that 25 to 30 per cent of seabed species were either damaged or dislodged by potting and we have also highlighted particular concerns about some long-lived and slow-growing species,” she added.

Writing in Marine Environmental Research, scientists say their findings must now be taken into consideration by authorities and fishing communities, and that managers must balance ecology with social and economic considerations to determine what level of impact is acceptable.

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