Scottish prawn fisheries have developed new nets designed to reduce by-catch of cod, haddock, whiting and saithe. As well as safeguarding future stocks, there’s an immediate business incentive: more days on the water.
Days at sea have been reduced annually under the Cod Recovery Plan, in order to preserve cod stocks. The Conservation Credit Scheme, controlled in Scotland by the Fisheries Management and Conservation Group, awards extra days in return for the adoption of certain types of highly selective fishing gear which have been proven to reduce by-catch.
The Flip-Flap net, developed by Gamrie Bay Prawn Trawls, and the Cod Avoidance Panel net, developed by Faithlie Trawl, are two of the designs now being used by the 300 or so vessels of the Scottish prawn fleet. Trials of both net designs have shown an average reduction in the amount of cod caught by 60%, and haddock by 67%. The studies have shown that there is no discernible difference in the amount of prawns being caught by these nets.
Both designs incorporate variations of flexible, internal panels which aim to direct cod, other round fish, and some flat fish, up and out of the escape hole at the top, whilst the prawns and the remaining flat fish move along the bottom and into the back of the trawl. The Flip-Flap and Cod Avoidance Panel designs can be fitted to existing nets, reducing the wastage of old nets, and cost around £80 and £300 per device, respectively.
Aside from the economic benefits of claiming back days at sea, the adoption of highly selective fishing gear demonstrates commitment to sustainability and to reducing discards of fish. It can be an important factor in a fishery gaining Marine Stewardship Council certification, as was the case for the North Sea Haddock Fishery, certified in 2010. It also demonstrates a bottom-up approach to fisheries management. As Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, puts it: “We produce the ideas and the innovation for the European Commission to accept, rather than the other way round.”
Photo credit: Flickr Prigalla