How We Fish Matters

How We Fish Matters is a comprehensive analysis of the severity of habitat impacts and discarded bycatch resulting from major commercial fishing gears used in Canada.

Report results:

• All the surveyed groups – east coast fishermen; west coast fishermen; fisheries and marine managers; fisheries and marine scientists; and conservation professionals – ranked the impacts associated with bottom trawls as the most severe.

• Bottom gillnets, dredges (including scallop and hydraulic clam dredges) and bottom longline were considered to have lower impacts than bottom trawl, but higher than other gears.

• Midwater trawls, pots and traps, pelagic longlines and purse seines followed with respectively decreasing levels of severity of ecosystem impacts.

• Hook and line gear, which included rod and reel for pelagic fishes, salmon trolling and groundfish hook and line, was considered to have low impacts on habitat and bycatch. The least damaging fishing gear was the harpoon, used in the North Atlantic swordfish fishery.

• Based on an analysis of the volume of fish caught by fishing gear type, the gear used most extensively in Canada also has the highest ecological impact.

Common fishing gears in Canada

How the fishing gears rank


For more information:
Ecology Action Centre
Ecology Action Centre
2705 Fern Lane
Halifax, NS B3K 4L3
Phone: (902) 429-2202
Fax: (902) 405-3716
Living Oceans Society
Living Oceans Society
PO Box 320
Sointula, BC
V0N 3E0
Phone: (250) 973-6580
Fax: (250) 973-6581

Marine Conservation
Biology Institute

2212 112th Ave NE
Suite B-300
Bellevue, WA 98004
Phone: (425) 274-1180
Fax: (425) 274-1183





pdf Full Report

pdf Executive Summary

pdf Data and literature on bycatch and habitat impacts in Canadian Fisheries, synthesized for the expert workshop

pdf Gear impact ratings

pdf Survey used to compare fishing gears according to their ecological impacts

pdf Overview of Fisheries in Canada

pdf Data Gaps: poster presented at the 2008 American Fisheries Society Symposium

In the news:

New report ranks destructive impacts of fishing gear used in Canada: Immediate action needed to protect habitat and marine life.

Globe and Mail article
National Post article
Vancouver Sun article
Times Colonist article
Times Colonist editorial


This study was made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. We also acknowledge the workshop participants and survey respondents for their invaluable input, as well as Dr. Callum Roberts for the afterword.

bottom banner