The New York Times recently published a short editorial on what commercial trawling is doing to the sea floor. Nature had published a similar article a month or so earlier, describing how the results of trawling were initially mistaken for the aftermath of an underwater landslide. You can see images of its effects here and here, and the Nature article has a close up photograph of trawled seabed.
If you’ve spent any time on the sand at one of Cape Town’s dive sites you’ll know that not only does the surface of the sand provide habitat for all sorts of creatures, but just under the surface live numerous others that may only venture out at night, or not at all. Imagine smoothing over that top layer, and dislodging the anemones, starfish, sea cucumbers, beaked sandfish, rays, worms, bivalves and their friends. Then imagine doing it again, within days, before any of the creatures could re-establish themselves.
In addition to removing all the fish from the ocean, our activities are apparently reshaping the ocean floor. That’s embarrassing, to say the least.