Scottish trawlers avoid undersized mackerel


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
December 7, 2009

The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) on Tuesday announced that electronic pre-sampling jigging machines were recently fitted to all pelagic mid-water trawlers in Scotland and Shetland, and trawler owners and skippers are calling the devices “invaluable” in helping fishermen avoid catching undersized mackerel.

The new computerized machines replace the old technique of using a hook and line to ascertain the likely size composition of fish in a shoal. The computerized method makes pre-sampling a simpler job and allows it to be more routinely practiced.

The use of the equipment started in Shetland as a voluntary initiative, but was soon taken up by the entire pelagic fleet after being promoted by the SPSG.

The jigging machines dangle lures in the water and enable fishermen to take a sample of around 20 kilograms of fish from a shoal of mackerel. Fishermen are looking for fish with an average weight of 400 grams or larger.

According to SPSG, the procedure is quick and simple but highly effective, and its use in the fleet will become more important in January 2010, when slippage or discarding of fish becomes illegal in all pelagic fleets operating in the northeast Atlantic. 

At a cost of around GBP 2,000 (USD 3,261, EUR 2,205) per vessel, they are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost savings they allow the vessel to make, said SPSG.

The pre-sampling also complements the SPSG’s sustainable policy and the terms of its Marine Stewardship Council accreditation for the Scottish northeast Atlantic mackerel fishery.

“I am very pleased that this skipper-led initiative has been taken up by the entire Scottish fleet as it brings real conservation benefits to the all-important mackerel stock,” said Derek Duthie, SPSG secretary. “This is the first time such an approach has been adopted across an entire fleet and is the latest in a package of sustainability measures introduced over recent years by the Scottish pelagic industry.”

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