Preliminary fishing trials using a new design of prawn trawl developed to reduce unwanted bycatches of fish have produced encouraging results.
The prototype trawl, which is the brainchild of fishing skipper Jimmy Buchan and netmaker Mark Buchan of Jackson Trawls, is designed to aid North Sea prawn fishermen comply with new Landing Obligation regulations (discard ban).
Working in a project supported by The Gear Innovation Technology and Advisory Group (GITAG), initial fishing trials with the new trawl on the fishing vessel Amity II resulted in a significant drop in the amount of unwanted whitefish retained without any reduction in the prawn (langoustine) catch. Furthermore, the quality of the prawns was noticeably better compared with those caught in traditional trawls.
The new design features an inclined panel which separates fish from the prawns within the trawl. The fish are directed upwards with many escaping through large meshes in the top part of the net, whilst the prawns catch is retained in the bottom section of the trawl. The whitefish which remain in the net are covered by the boat’s fish quota for the mixed fishery, keeping discards down to a minimum. The trials, which are still ongoing, have been experimenting with different configurations and mesh sizes to ascertain the optimum design.
Skipper Jimmy Buchan said: “Innovation never stops nor should it. Having the support of GITAG with the industry experts it offers will help the fishers find solutions in developing more efficient ways to catch fish which will help us to continue sustainable harvesting over the long term.
“We are entering a new era in fisheries management where fishermen are challenged to find new and better ways to harvest the sea.
“This gear trial is part of the outward focus in finding workable solutions that are acceptable to all stakeholders and where fishermen can continue to fish responsibly. Much work has yet to be done but early indications are showing promising results.”
Other skippers are also being supported by GITAG in conducting their own projects in developing innovative new trawl designs to reduce discards.
GITAG was formed in the second half of 2015 after the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s wholly owned subsidiary company SFF Services Ltd secured funding from Marine Scotland to develop and trial innovative fishing gear exploring practical solutions aimed at reducing the amount of discards.
GITAG aims to address these research and development gaps by working with key partners including industry, Marine Scotland Policy, Marine Scotland Science, Producer Organisations, the Scottish Industry Discards Initiative and Seafish to promote and encourage innovation from the fishing industry as a whole.