New prawn trawls to reduce discards
Scottish prawn fishermen have developed and introduced a number of innovative trawl designs that have cut unwanted fish bycatch by around 70% in sea-going trials.
Scottish fishermen are developing their own conservation measures that they hope will gain the official support of the EC, and which will ultimately lead to better fisheries management in the future.
Already, one of the trawls developed by the Scottish industry has been approved by the European Commission’s advisory scientific and technical committee, with another design having just been endorsed by Marine Scotland. Other trawl designs are currently under-going assessment.
The first trawl developed has been dubbed the ‘flip-flap’ trawl, and was designed by Gamrie Bay Prawn Trawls in Gardenstown. It features an inclined panel inside the trawl with a loose flap at the bottom. The majority of cod and other roundfish are directed up the panel and out through an escape hole at the top of the net, whilst prawns move along the bottom section and into the back of the trawl. This trawl was recently approved by the EC’s Scientific and Technical Committee for Fisheries (STCEF).
Another design works on a similar principle and has been developed by Faithlie Trawl in Fraserburgh. This trawl has just gained approval from Marine Scotland. Additional selective trawl designs are in the pipeline from other netmakers, including Scotnet and Pisces, with it being seen as important to have a variety of gear types so as to meet the specifics of different prawn fisheries found around the Scottish coast.
Trials of these trawls have seen a reduction in the cod and roundfish catch by around 70%, with the remaining fish caught being within boats’ quota levels for these species. It is essential to continue development of these and a number of other innovative trawl designs, recognising the fact that no one design will suit all fisheries.
These latest innovations by skippers and netmakers are an integral part of the Scottish fishing industry’s determination to pioneer and take the lead in sustainable fisheries management. It was also the necessary response to the outcome of last December EC Fisheries Council that saw the number of days that the prawn fleet could put to sea slashed to totally unviable levels as part of the EC’s cod recovery plan.
The development of these prawn trawls is going hand-in-hand with other conservation initiatives pioneered by the Scottish whitefish sector, including real time area closures to protect stocks and technical alterations to fishing gear. The Scottish fishing industry is hoping that such measures will bring to an end to the annual cuts in the number of days that boats can put to sea.