SINTEF’s automatic catch handling project

23 Aug 2012
The overall idea is to develop new technology for catch handling

The overall idea is to develop new technology for catch handling

Norway’s SINTEF - the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia – is one-and-a-half years into a four-year research project on automatic catch handling systems of whitefish onboard fishing vessels.

The organisation says that larger and more efficient fishing vessels and gear are used without corresponding technological developments in the processing of fish onboard. An automated catch handling process, including automatic stunning and bleeding of fish, are the principal concerns the industry itself has pointed out to strengthen competitiveness and to ensure recruitment.

The project has a budget of NOK17m (€2.3m/US$2.8m) and will end in 2014. The overall idea is to develop new technology for catch handling in interaction between equipment vendors, users and scientists.

Different components of the catch handling process are being developed, and eventually will be available as either a complete system, or vessels will be able to purchase individual machines for specific processes.

The Danish seine fleet is the targeted group, but the new technology will have great transfer value to other fisheries, such as trawlers and longliners.

The project's main focus is development of technology for automated stunning and bleeding of wild fish. In addition, the capture operation is evaluated, and a machine vision system for bleeding, species sorting and weight estimation will be tested.

Stunning
An important part of this project has been developing a machine that electronically stuns the fish.

The machine, manufactured by SeaSide AS, has been installed on fishing vessel Gunnar K and according to Harry Westavik of SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, “The quality of the fish taken by this boat is first-class.”

Once the fish are safely onboard, the one metre-square stunning unit helps both to reduce heavy lifts for the crew and to shorten the suffering of the fish before they are bled, thus improving the quality of the catch.

The electro-stunning system means that the fish can be slaughtered as humanely as possible as soon as they are brought onboard.

The crew of the vessel are satisfied with the system: bleeding fish is a cold, heavy task that has given many a fisherman strain injuries. When fish are lying quietly, the job is easier. Moreover, if a fish has worn itself out before it is bled, it will not bleed enough; this lowers the quality of its flesh, which both acquires a bitter taste and turns greyish during heat treatment. Last but not least, the electro-stunning system saves the crew time.

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