Skip to main content

Bottom Trawling Impacts
in the Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is in decline, and the impacts of bottom trawling are holding back its recovery.

Fishing is one of the most widespread and significant impacts humans have inflicted on marine ecosystems—and the Baltic Sea is no exception. Bottom trawling, one of the most damaging fishing methods in practice, is serially depleting the resource base, causing long-term physical damage, altering the ecosystem balance, affecting biogeochemical cycles, and negatively impacting the seabed’s ability to store and sequester carbon. From a socioeconomic perspective, bottom trawling is causing a reduction in yields, poor profitability, and high future uncertainty. Action is urgently needed.



Of all the maritime activities affecting the seafloor, bottom trawling is one of the primary threats. The map of the average intensity of bottom trawling across the Baltic Sea and the Kattegat during 2016 shows to be distinctly concentrated to the southwest and in southern parts of the sea, from Kattegat to Poland and the Baltic states, with higher fishing intensities in Kattegat, around Bornholm and Polish waters.

What is bottom trawling?

Bottom trawling is a fishing practice where gear is manually or mechanically dragged behind a boat. As the gear digs into the seafloor, it stirs up sediment, destroys fragile creatures, and catches almost everything in its path.

The impacts of bottom trawling

  • Causes serial resource depletion
  • Changes the characteristic balance between species distribution and abundance
  • Disrupts biogeochemical cycles and compounds eutrophication
  • Damages seafloor integrity and habitats, leading to changes in fish distribution
  • Affects carbon storage and reduces carbon sequestration rates
  • Compounds the effects of climate change and overfishing

Action is overdue
—Baltic governments need to step up now

The truth is that governments around the Baltic Sea have done little to implement and enforce laws against unsustainable fishing practices like bottom trawling. It’s time to step up the implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management and intensify efforts to achieve Good Environmental Status.


Take action to save the Baltic



Want to do something about bottom trawling in the Baltic Sea? Help us spread knowledge about the impacts of bottom trawling in the Baltic Sea. Share this page, our story map, and our report with fisheries and environmental ministers in the Baltic region to put pressure on them to act! Remember to EAT sustainably caught seafood and ASK where and how your fish was caught.




Visit our interactive story map to explore the history and impacts of bottom trawling in the Baltic Sea. It features responsive maps of bottom trawling intensity, illustrates examples of impacts, and summarizes the key takeaways of the WWF report A sea under pressure: Bottom trawling impacts in the Baltic, including a list of recommendations for policymakers.

Explore the story map

Baltic Bottom Trawling report


Read the WWF report, A sea under pressure: Bottom trawling impacts in the Baltic, which examines the latest research on bottom trawling impacts in the Baltic Sea and provides a list of recommended actions policymakers need to take in order to bring back fish stocks and improve overall biodiversity through ecosystem-based fisheries management.


Share this article

Last modified 28/09/20

Close search

Do you have questions?

Go to contact us if you have questions.

For press

Visit out newsroom where you can find press releases, reports, and new articles.

Telephone our press team: 08-54657500