It must not be imagined that trawling has never been advocated (indeed, it has even been experimentally practised), for we have only to look through the various Fisheries Reports to find it repeatedly referred to; unfortunately, however, these appeals so far have been without any practical results. It will, therefore, be most instructive to refer briefly to the manner in which trawling and other modes of deep-sea fishing are carried out elsewhere; and more particularly to bring under notice the enormous fish yield effected by them. Trawling, or as it is more properly termed, beam-trawling, may be described as a method of deep-sea fishing, in which a large bag net is towed along the ground so as to scoop, as it were, the fish into its receptacle. There are at least several important stations in England for trawling; some in the English Channel; some on the west, and also on the Welsh coast; and others again (amongst which is Grimsby, the largest fishing port in the world) on the east coast on the North Sea. The trawling grounds of the latter are widely known, and comprise the famous Dogger Bank, which covers many hundreds of acres in area. In its neighbourhood, also, there are numerous grounds such as the Inner and Outer Well Banks, and there are others again nearer the English coast. In addition to these there is the Great Silver Pit, discovered in a severe winter in 1843; and it has been noticed that during the winter months the fish frequent the deeper water, because the temperature is more equable than in shallow places. The depth at which trawling is usually carried on varies from 20 to 30 fathoms; never under any circumstances reaching 50 fathoms - the depth of the Silver Pit being from 35 to 45 fathoms.
It was formerly urged against trawling that it was very destructive to the spawn, at that time supposed to be lying on the sea bottom. But the investigations of the late Professor Sars, for the Swedish Government, into the spawning habits of sea fish, have conclusively revealed the fact that the ova of fish float on the surface of the water during the whole period of their development. Not only have the floating ova of the cod and haddock been reared, but the common plaice, the representative of the flatfish family, including the brill, the sole, and the turbot, is also known to spawn near the surface. The eggs of the mackerel and the garfish have likewise been found floating, and successfully hatched. Now, no fish comes so close to the land as does the mackerel, yet it is certain that it never makes its way into the estuaries and inlets till after spawning is finished - for that it spawns in the open sea is almost without a doubt. These facts consequently do away altogether with the old statements concerning the destructive results of trawling.
The yield from the English trawleries alone is computed to be over 200,000 tons annually, and as the price for trawled fish at the Billingsgate market averages £12 per ton, this represents about two and a half million pounds. And, in addition to these weighty figures, Professor Huxley's words deserve to be well remembered, for, says he, "Were "trawl fishing stopped, it would no longer be a case of high "prices, but that ninety-nine out of a hundred would hardly "be able to afford any at all - herrings and a few other "fish caught in the old way excepted." Indeed, it is chiefly by this method of beam trawling that London and the interior are supplied with brill, turbot, and soles; while by it thousands of tons of plaice, haddock, and other fish are brought within the reach even of the poorest.