“GearingUp” launched as tool to help EU fishermen

Published on
December 7, 2017

A new online interactive tool launched Wednesday, 6 December will help fishermen from the European Union meet the requirements of the E.U.’s landing obligation, which was introduced under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. 

The landing obligation is gradually being phased in across regulated commercial species, and by 2019 will require all catches onboard to be landed and counted against quota. It is seen as a vital measure in reducing or eliminating discards, which is one of the most important issues currently facing the fishing industry in Europe. 

This radical change in fisheries management aims to improve fishing behavior through improvements in selectivity, which can generally be achieved through modifications to gear. 

The GearingUp tool is a database of all gear selectivity and catch comparison trials that have taken place in Northern European waters since 2002. Designed to highlight available gear modifications, with detailed results of their performance at sea, it can be used by anyone searching for practical guidance on how to modify their own fishing gear to meet the requirements of the landing obligation.  

According to Tom Catchpole, principal fisheries science advisor at the United Kingdom’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), six months of industry engagement, workshops, data analysis, coding, and refinement have gone into creating the GearingUp tool.

“Through my extensive work on discards and gear innovation, I felt it was too hard for fishermen to gain access to practical information on gear modifications that were being regularly tested at sea. I came up with the idea of an online platform that would combine scientific and industry-led research on gear trials, and be available for open access,” Catchpole said. “I am really pleased with the way that GearingUp has turned out. It provides a unique opportunity for anyone to benefit from the knowledge created through the many trials and collaborations that have taken place over the past few decades, and not have to reinvent the wheel.”

David Stevens, skipper of Crystal Sea, a Newlyn-based whitefish trawler, has been involved in trials of the tool and believes it will be widely used by industry.

“For my business to remain economically viable, I am constantly looking for new ways to adapt my gear to reduce unwanted catch. Knowledge-sharing is important in helping to achieve this aim, which is why I’m involved with the GearingUp project,” he said. “I hope that by contributing my own trial to the database, that I will help other fishermen to find solutions to the challenges we are all facing.”

Users can currently search through more than 450 data entries using a filter system, tailoring their search to ensure they find a selective gear that suits their fishery, region, and vessel. Thanks to feedback from industry, the tool has been created to be compatible with mobile, tablet, and desktop computers, so that it can be accessed anywhere.

Mike Park, CEO of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, the largest association of fishermen in the U.K., believes that GearingUp is a long overdue initiative.

“This is a very welcome project that has great potential to accelerate improvements in technical innovation. Open access to a range of trials and their results, should, if properly utilized, remove duplication of trials and their associated costs,” he said. 

GearingUp is not a static entity, but will have new trials added as they happen. To enhance it further, the development team is exploring the option of sharing non-published trials, by supporting the addition of gear experiments trialed independently by fishermen. Feedback on this will be sought during 2018, when additional workshops will take place. The development team is encouraging those wishing to put forward a gear trial or help the project grow to get in touch with them.

At least one workshop has already been scheduled. Johan Baaij from the Fisheries Innovation Centre is helping to organize a work seminar for Dutch fishermen next year.

“Individual European countries have their own tools and sources for fishermen to help them deal with the European landing obligation and other challenges. In the Netherlands, for example, the fishery industry has launched the website www.vistikhetmaar.nl,” he said. “The GearingUp initiative will certainly stimulate fisherman from all over Europe to translate solutions from abroad to their own situation. This cross-border database will increase the awareness and knowledge of innovations abroad, and also help European fishermen to understand and deal with European regulations and directives.” 

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