UNH Ocean Seminar

Navigating the Controversy Around Bottom Trawling: Understanding and Mapping Local Environmental Sensitivities

LTJG Drew Stephens
Benthic Mapping Specialist

Groundfish Assessment Program
Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Friday, May. 5, 2023, 3:10pm
Chase 105

Commercial fishers use bottom trawls to catch nearly ¼ of the global annual fish catches, contributing economic value and food security. Yet bottom trawling, which involves dragging heavy nets that can dig several centimeters into the seafloor, has been criticized for environmental impacts such as damaging benthic habitats and contributing to climate change by releasing carbon stored in marine sediments. Studies on these topics have a wide mixture of results indicating that local conditions (for example: sensitivity of biota, bottom type, and natural storm disturbances) are playing an important role, but our understanding here is limited. This talk will discuss the current research on the environmental impacts of bottom trawling, and tie in the need for more research and high quality mapping to effectively manage sustainable fisheries into the future.


LTJG Drew Stephens has a B.S. Geology from UNC Chapel Hill and an M.S. Marine Geology from Tulane where his research focused on geomorphology in the tidal reaches of the Mississippi and Mekong river deltas. He was a geosteerer in the Marcellus shale, then a hydrogeologist for the NC Dept. of Environmental Quality before commissioning in the NOAA Corps in 2018. He sailed a two year sea tour aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather, then joined the Alaska Fisheries Science Center as Benthic Mapping Specialist in the Groundfish Assessment Program. The best thing about his job is finding the crossover between the often separate fields of hydrography and fisheries.