We take the Local Catch Triple Bottom Line seriously, which is why we provide descriptions of the fishing methods and gear used by the fishermen we work with. We hope that making this information available will help you better understand your Local Catch’s journey from ocean to plate. Click on the images below to learn more!


Bottom Trawling consists of towing a trawl (fishing net) along the seabed or or just above the seabed to catch fish and/or shellfish. The bottom trawl consists of a cone-shaped net body, which traps the catch. The size of the net can be adapted to the vessel size, but trawl boats based in Monterey Bay are usually larger vessels.

Tows usually take place at speeds between 3 to 5 knots and for typical durations of 3 to 5 hours.  Monterey Bay itself is closed to bottom trawling, but federal waters off of Big Sur to the south and Davenport to the north are open.

Local species caught by bottom trawling: petrale soledover solerockfishsablefishCalifornia halibutsanddabs, skates, and starry flounder.
Pro: Efficient and effective method to catch groundfish that are often inaccessible by other methods.  Provides the market with larger volumes of seafood.
Con: Bottom trawling sometimes results in higher levels of bycatch than other methods and may alter the seafloor structure.

Gillnets are vertical curtains of netting suspended by a floatline, which could be anchored to the seabed or allowed to float near the surface. Gillnets are inexpensive and are thus ubiquitous among artisanal fisheries worldwide.  The netting is often made of nylon, making them practically invisible to fish, which swim into the netting wall and become entangled.  They can be deployed by hand from small boats, but large modern vessels often use hydraulic net haulers to set the netting in place.

Local species caught with gillnets: swordfish.
Pro: Inexpensive technique capable of catching schools of fish.
Con: Bycatch of medium to large marine species such as sharks, turtles, and small marine mammals is possible.

Longlining uses a main line with smaller lines attached loaded with baits separated at regular intervals. The main line can be placed near the surface for fish such as albacore tuna and swordfish, or by applying weights it can be laid near the bottom of the seabed for sablefish and rockfish.  Longlines can be laid from small rowing boats as well as from larger vessels. The size of the vessel and the degree of mechanization determine the amount of hooks that can be used.

Local species caught by longlining:
Pro: Effective method for catching deepwater species such as sablefish and rockfish with relatively low levels of bycatch.

Con: Lines take a long time to bait!  Bycatch of marine mammals, sea birds, sea turtles, etc. may increases if the longline is placed near the surface instead of weighted to go to the bottom.

Purse Seine is a long wall of netting hung vertically in the water that is used to encircle schools of fish.  Seine nets are framed with a floatline at the top and a weighted line at the bottom. Using a drawstring, fishermen can purse the bottom of the net to herd the fish into the center of the net. This technique is used to catch schools of fish that live near the ocean surface. Small purse seines can be operated entirely by hand using canoes, but large scale purse seining is also carried out by industrial fisheries. Locally, purse seining often employs an auxiliary skiff to assist with the deployment of the net.
Local species caught with purse seines: sardines, anchovies, mackerel, market squid, and Pacific herring.
Pro: Excellent method for catching schools of fish.  Since schools of fish are targeted, incidental bycatch of species outside of the targeted school is usually minimal.
Con: Seining for large quantities of a single species can become unsustainable if the population of that species cannot withstand it.

Rod and Reel (also known as “hook and line”) is a technique well known to most recreational fishermen. It consists of a pole with a baited line used to lure fish at depths ranging from near the surface to the seabed.   Each line may contain several sets of hooks, and weights are used to reach the desire depth.  Often the boat, line and bait are allowed to drift over a targeted area.  Several types of species can be caught by rod and reel.

Local species caught by rod and reel / hook and line: California halibutlingcodwhite sea basssanddabs, and cabezon.
Pro: Rod and reel fishing has low levels of bycatch since it targets one fish at a time and undesired fish can be released quickly. The technique has low environmental impact since it does not endanger most large marine species.
Con: Can be time consuming and inefficient.

Shellfish farming consists of reproducing the conditions favorable for the production of shellfish by growing them on beaches or suspending them in ropes or mesh bags. Since shellfish are filter feeders, they filter excess nutrients out of the water, but this can lead the excess waste in high density areas or places with slow currents.

In Monterey Bay, shellfish farming is used to grow abalone.  Oysters, Manila clams, and mussels are raised in Central Coast waters to our north and south.
Pro: Removes pressure on wild shellfish populations, and does not require protein inputs.  Well-run farms can actually improve water quality.
Con: Possible waste increases and possible introduction of invasive species that could outcompete native species for resources.

Traps and pots are metal or wood cage-like devices submerged to the seafloor.  Loaded with bait, traps attract fish and shellfish, allow them to enter voluntarily, and prevent them from leaving the chamber.  Caught animals such as crabs are thus held alive and relatively unharmed until the fisherman “pulls” the trap out of the water.  Traps tend to be very effective, and allow undersized fish to escape.  Live animals can be discarded unharmed by fishermen, making it easy to comply with fishing regulations. Traps can be operated without a boat in shallow waters and have existed in many different cultures for centuries. Most boats now use hydraulic hauling devices that lower and raise traps from deeper waters.

Local species caught with traps/pots: sablefishdungeness crabrock crab, and spot prawns.
Pro: Very low environmental impact since equipment is stationary. Very low levels of bycatch.
Con: Forgotten traps may continue to fish resulting in “ghost fishing.”

Trolling is one of the oldest fishing techniques around. It involves trailing a baited line from a vessel, with the line usually staying relatively close to the surface. Specialized equipment in modern fisheries allows commercial vessels to release several lines at the same time (often at different depths) keeping them behind or to the sides of the boat. Depending on the target species, the lines are towed at speeds between 2.3 and 7 knots.

Local species caught by trolling include: salmonalbacore tuna, and white sea bass, which require a moving bait to be caught.
Pro: Low environmental impact and low bycatch since fishermen can release unwanted catch.
Con: Energy and time intensive catching system.


All images on this page are from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and are used with permission.

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