New selective fishing gear trials aim to overcome discard ban

Published on
August 17, 2016

Selectivity trials using low headline trawls in the Southwest of England are being conducted by the U.K. Seafish Authority to support local fishermen through the ban on discarding over-quota fish.

In recent years, an increasing number of haddock are found in the region’s inshore grounds. As it is only in recent years that the species have appeared in the area, inshore trawlers only have a small quota, and so these selectivity trials offer a potential solution to this challenge.

The rules of the EU Landing Obligation, commonly known as the “discard ban,” will be fully implemented by 2019, by which time fishermen will need to have found ways of avoiding catching more than their quota.

After several meetings with local skippers, it was decided that using a low headline trawl could help them avoid catching too many haddock while still enabling them to catch their other valuable demersal species such as lemon sole, plaice and cuttlefish.

Seafish's Southwest regional team, the Seafish Gear Technologist and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) collaborated to put the project together, while Clive Palfrey, a local net maker, helped redesign the trawl bringing the top panel of the net even closer to the seabed – to just under 80cm – as haddock tend to swim just off the bottom of the seabed.

The initial testing of the trawl was on the Looe trawler, MFV Swiftsure, with skipper Richard Chapman. Both the vessel's usual net and the new design were filmed using underwater cameras to show how the trawl was performing on the seabed and how fish were reacting to the net.

''By getting the headline so low it has helped demonstrate that it is possible to avoid catching some of the haddock that would normally have to be discarded while still retaining other valuable species. The video footage is important to show how the different species react to the advancing trawl and to take the guesswork out of knowing the height of the trawl above the seabed. Further trials will need to be undertaken to assess whether it will be commercially viable for the SW inshore fleet to use a trawl of this design,'' said Mike Montgomerie, Seafish gear technologist.

Preliminary results were very promising, showing a marked reduction in the catch of haddock without any appreciable loss of other bottom-living species.

Trials will continue throughout the summer.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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