Trawl

Trawling is a type of commercial harvesting method that catches many different species of groundfish swimming in the Pacific Ocean. Trawl gear involves a net being towed by a boat through the water. The nets are shaped like a cone with a wide opening and a narrow-closed end. In BC, there are two different types of trawling. Midwater trawling occurs when the net is towed through the water and does not touch the seafloor and catches pelagic groundfish species such as hake, pollock, yellowtail and widow rockfish. Bottom trawling occurs when the trawl net is towed along the ocean floor to catch groundfish (various rockfish, sole, flounder, and other species).

Trawling is a highly effective harvest method because it can harvest large volumes of fish. As boats deploy their trawl nets, fish will get trapped inside. There are mesh size restrictions for the trawl nets to reduce the harvest of small or sublegal fish. The trawl fishery is part of the Groundfish Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, and there is a specific TAC for most species of groundfish the fishery. As fish are hauled on board, they are sorted by species and processed or cooled immediately to maintain their premium quality. Some trawl vessels are equipped to freeze large volumes of fish. With proper management measures (IVQs, at-sea and dockside monitoring, habitat and spawning closures, selective fishing, and full accountability), trawling is a very sustainable harvest method.

Trawl vessels are large and equipped to carry several crew members for extended periods. It is a multi-species fishery, and it’s not uncommon to catch more than a dozen different species in a single tow. Annually, the fishery catches more than 100 different commercially sold species. There are various restrictions and management measurements in place to minimize bottom impacts and fish selectively and sustainably. Trawl nets have bobbins or rollers on the foot rope to allow the net to move along the sea floor. Area closures and strict management protect sensitive habitats, such as coral and sponge reefs. As fish swim into the net, it is hauled on board and each species is sorted and recorded in the fishing log and by the at-sea monitoring system. Vessels have at-sea monitoring to ensure management on a species and stock basis, including Rockfish, Sole, Dogfish, Pollock, Flounder, Lingcod, Sablefish and many more. Trawlers harvest along the entire coast of BC based on market demand, fish availability, and weather conditions.

Deep-sea trawler vessels are large, equipped to sleep several crew members and monitors. It is a multi-species fishery, and it’s not uncommon to catch more than a dozen different species in a single tow. Annually, the fishery catches more than 100 different commercially sold species. There are various restrictions to and management measurements in place to minimize bottom contact. Trawl nets have bobbins or rollers on the ground gear to allow the net to move along the sea floor. Area closures and strict management protect sensitive habitats, such as coral reefs. As fish swim into the net, it is hauled on board and each species is sorted. Vessels have at-sea observers and cameras to monitor the catch to ensure management on a species-by-species basis. These species include Rockfish, Sole, Dogfish, Ocean Perch, Pollock, and many more.

Learn more about the Groundfish trawl fishery.

Midwater trawling occurs when the net is towed through the water and does not touch the seafloor and catches pelagic groundfish species such as hake, pollock, yellowtail and widow rockfish. Bottom trawling occurs when the trawl net is towed along the ocean floor to catch groundfish (various rockfish, sole, flounder, and other species). A cone-shaped net drags behind the boat at a shallower depth. Trawl nets are commercially designed to harvest target species, and the mesh is large enough for the small unwanted fish to swim out of the net. Harvesters will locate large schools of groundfish and deploy their nets at the target depth in the water. Midwater trawl boats can range in size from 35 – 175 feet and can fish for several days (fresh fish deliveries) to several weeks (frozen fish deliveries) at a time.

Learn more about the Hake fishery.