This week, the environmental group Oceana is collecting images from a high-definition video camera in the ocean off the Oregon Coast. As I reported for EarthFix, it’s a research expedition with a cause: The group wants to use the footage to close more seafloor habitat to bottom trawl fishing.
The underwater footage will be collected using a remote-operated vehicle over the course of seven days. You can follow the expedition’s blog posts on Oceana’s website.
Bottom trawl boats drag weighted nets across the sea floor to catch groundfish – species including Petrale sole and sablefish, which is often sold as black cod. Some areas off the West Coast are already closed to this kind of fishing to prevent damage to fragile fish habitat such as coral reefs.
Regional fishery managers are in the process of reviewing whether more restrictions are needed, and Oceana has proposed closing additional areas in more than a dozen places off the Oregon and Washington coasts.
Ben Enticknap of Oceana says he’s hoping the videos they collect this week will help make the case.
“What we’re trying to do is identify the most sensitive habitats and keep the bottom trawls out of there,” he said.
Brad Pettinger of the Oregon Trawl Commission says the fishing industry has already taken measures to protect the marine environment and will likely oppose additional restrictions.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council will consider proposals for new fishing area closures in November.