Modelling the physical impact of trawl components on the seabed and comparison with sea trials

Ana Ivanovic, Richard D. Neilson, Finbarr G. O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Quantitative measurement of the response of benthic habitats to impact from towed fishing gears is of great importance to the ecosystem and the long-term management of sustainable fisheries. To date, most studies on the effects of trawling on the benthos have focussed on before/after, control/impact comparative studies. This research has proved important in terms of describing general trends and has identified taxa that suffer high levels of mortality, and habitat types where impact is the greatest. A limitation, however, to this comparative work is the lack of prediction-based methodology and it would be very beneficial to develop a more mechanistic approach that would allow trawling impact on the benthos to be estimated for a wider range of species and habitats. This paper is a first step in this approach and focuses on modelling the physical interaction between gear components and the seabed. In particular the penetration and disturbance to the seabed caused by (i) the roller clump of a twin trawl and (ii) a trawl door, are examined. A finite element (FE) model of the interaction of these components and the seabed is developed using the different soil models and features available within the Abaqus finite element software package. The resulting models are able to predict the penetration depth and sediment displacement associated with each gear component and the predictions are compared with the results obtained during sea trials. The sea trials were undertaken on two sediment types at depths accessible to scientific divers using SCUBA diving techniques who measured and profiled the physical alteration to the seabed following the passage of a roller clump and a trawl door. In addition, drag forces obtained from the sea trials are compared with numerical predictions of the drag related to the soil and the estimated fluid drag. Good agreement between the experimental trials and numerical simulations is found and hence this study provides the basis for investigation of the interaction of other components and sediment types.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-933
Number of pages9
JournalOcean Engineering
Issue number7
Early online date15 Oct 2010
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • modelling
  • sea trials
  • sustainability
  • trawling


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