Sediment mobilization by bottom trawls: A model approach applied to the Dutch North Sea beam trawl fishery

A.D. Rijnsdorp*, J. Depestele, P. Molenaar, O.R. Eigaard, A. Ivanović, F.G. O'Neill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Bottom trawls impact the seafloor and benthic ecosystem. One of the direct physical impacts is the mobilization of sediment in the wake of trawl gear components that are in contact with or are close to the seabed. The quantity of sediment mobilized is related to the hydrodynamic drag of the gear components and the type of sediment over which they are trawled. Here we present a methodology to estimate the sediment mobilization from hydrodynamic drag. The hydrodynamic drag of individual gear components is estimated using empirical measurements of similarly shaped objects, including cylinders, cubes, and nets. The method is applied to beam trawls used in the Dutch North Sea flatfish fishery and validated using measurements of beam trawl drag from the literature. Netting contributes most to the hydrodynamic drag of pulse trawls, while the tickler chains and chain mat comprise most of the hydrodynamic drag of conventional beam trawls. Taking account of the silt content of the areas trawled and the number of different beam trawl types used by the fleet, sediment mobilization is estimated as 9.2 and 5.3 kg m-2 for conventional 12 m beam and pulse trawls, respectively, and 4.2 and 4.3 kg m-2 for conventional 4.5 m beam and pulse trawls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1574-1586
Number of pages13
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2021


  • beam trawl
  • benthic ecosystem
  • chain mat
  • electro trawls
  • hydrodynamic drag
  • pulse trawl
  • tickler chains
  • trawling impact


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