DWT and Fishing

DWT's Position on Commercial Fishing

Dorset Wildlife Trust supports the sustainable harvesting of some marine species for food - this is a legitimate use of marine resources, providing employment opportunities and high-quality food.

At the same time, commercial fishing has been identified as one of the most significant pressures on the world’s oceans, leading to a massive reduction in world-wide fish stocks, spin-off impacts on the wider ecosystem and considerable incidental damage to the seabed.

Dorset Wildlife Trust believes that it is possible to relieve the pressure on the environment from fishing, allowing ecosystems to recover, while continuing to provide a living for local commercial fishermen.  This can be achieved by shifting to more selective, less damaging capture methods and by reducing overall fishing effort, allowing stocks to recover to a more resilient and productive level which can then be fished more lightly.

MPAs and Mobile Fishing
There are currently 6 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Dorset covering 553km2 or 36.4% of our inshore waters out to 6 nautical miles. However, fisheries management within MPA’s vary from voluntary agreements to a ban on mobile gear such as trawls and dredges.  

DWT opposes mobile fishing (where permitted) within any part of an MPA.  Management should safeguard and maintain all habitats and associated species within the site as a whole, and not just the feature for which it was designated.  

Despite our concerns, DWT do recognise and commend the local byelaw protecting sensitive reef and seagrass habitats from mobile fishing.  This precludes trawls and dredges within 30% of our Dorset inshore waters.

Great Dorset Seafood
We believe that fish-buying consumers care about the state of the oceans and the people of Dorset care about Dorset’s marine environment. Given the right information, consumers can make choices which can encourage these positive changes.

Much of the fishing going on in Dorset today is relatively low-impact and we want to give credit where fishermen are making an effort to minimise their environmental impact and to manage their stocks well.  The Great Dorset Seafood Campaign aims to identify well-managed, low-impact Dorset fisheries and promote the sale of such seafood.

 Low impact and traditional pots and traps by ERance web

Low impact pots and traps by E Rance

Promoting Great Dorset Seafood

Promoting Great Dorset Seafood by E Rance

Christchurch Bay pot caught lobsters

Pot caught lobster by E Rance

Arrow Definition of terms

Many terms are used to describe fisheries, associated seafood or the method of capture. Sometimes these terms are used incorrectly and we have detailed a description to help you source your seafood correctly.


There are several elements to sustainability. The target fish population needs to remain resilient and productive. Most fish stocks globally are well below this level but by easing off fishing effort and allowing stocks to recover it should be possible to catch more fish in the future using less effort. The impact of the fishery on the wider ecosystem is also part of sustainability ­ if the target stock is healthy, but the fishing method is unacceptably damaging the seabed, the fishery cannot be deemed sustainable. The wider effective management of the stock also comes into play, and this is where local fishermen can get a raw deal. It doesn’t matter how sustainably you are fishing if someone else is overfishing your stock elsewhere in its range.


Bycatch is the unintended catch that may either be thrown away as discards or landed without management and population safeguards.  It is a huge problem that has contributed to the widespread destruction of marine life and is one of the world’s biggest environmental issues.  DWT believes that bycatch must be reduced through a range of management, fishing gear design and operational measures.  Discards, if kept and sold without limit, risk further overfishing and harm to young fish and species for which there is no adequate management.  DWT believes that if discards are to be retained, thus minimising the waste of usually already dead and dying fish, there must be limits on the amount of fish caught, not just landed.  These catch limits or discard quotas must include the full range of species caught, not just those of commercial interest.


In this case means caught in Dorset sea area and/or by Dorset fishermen

Environmentally sensitive/low impact:

This refers to fishing methods that have little environmental impact beyond the removal of the target species, this wider impact could be physical damage to the seabed or high levels of bycatch.



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