Survey identifies top tech needs of US seafood harvesters

Published on
April 20, 2022
An Alaskan fisherman pulls in a catch from a purse seine net.

A survey performed by the Seafood Harvesters of America, along with NOAA Fisheries scientists, Conservation X Labs, Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, and the Alaska Ocean Cluster has identified the most-pressing needs of U.S. fishermen.

The survey, which had 186 respondents, asked members of the fishing industry what their top technology needs are. The survey found “clear opportunities” for new technology in commercial fishing to make it safer, more efficient, and more sustainable.

The top technology that fishermen desired, according to the survey results, was more energy-efficient engines for vessels. Nearly tied with energy-efficient engines was more-accurate fish finding equipment, such as sonars and echosounders. Rounding out the top three was bycatch-reduction technology.

All three were identified as priorities for increasing the sustainability of American fisheries,  reducing costs and improving the health of U.S. fisheries overall, as they allow fishermen to more efficiently target their catch.

“When we asked respondents why they chose their top sustainability priority, there were a few motivational patterns that emerged, including environmental impacts, cost reduction, bycatch reduction, and fishing information/data,” the survey report said.

The survey also found U.S. fishermen by and large wanted improved communication and data systems, with the safety of the crew and vessel the top motivator by a “wide margin.”

“Many of these respondents cited that improved communication systems would allow for faster and better communication in case of a man-overboard situation or other catastrophic situation,” the survey states.

“Better and more reliable communication when fishing offshore would decrease anxiety,” one respondent wrote.

Other top safety asks were better navigation systems and tools, better fire prevention systems, and better survival suits and flotation devices.

On the productivity end, survey respondents again had a few responses that stood out above others: Gear modifications and sea-to-table tracking technologies.

On the gear side, harvesters reported that reducing bycatch is a motivation for gear modification, as well gear modification in the sense of moving away from diesel-powered equipment to a hybrid engine instead. Across all of the productivity technology, harvesters reported choosing topics based on reducing operating costs.

Harvesters also asked for better weather- and ocean-monitoring technology, as well as communication and data-network systems, were top priorities.

“Many areas where we fish still do not have accurate weather reporting information. This is crucial to safe fishing,” one respondent wrote.

Overall, the responses suggest clear priorities for technological improvements among harvesters in the U.S., the survey found.

“Our aim in sharing these data and results is to help inform impactful and relevant investment and technology development. We also hope to help facilitate better information sharing and dialogue between the fishing industry, investors, and technology companies,” the survey's analysis states. “With better information on where the potential users of fishing technology see opportunity, we hope investors and technology developers will be able to address both long-standing and emerging technology needs in the commercial fishing industry.”  

Photo courtesy of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

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