To Catch A Better Fish, You Need a Better Fishing Net
The Government of New Zealand has teamed up with three local fishing companies to tackle a huge issue facing the world's oceans today - bycatch. Earlier this month Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) released images from what has been dubbed "the future of sustainable fishing", a new net design that aims to sort and release juvenile fish and other non-target species that happen to get caught in the fishing process.
"This is the biggest step forward for commercial fishing in 150 years," said Eric Barratt, CEO of Sanford Limited, one of the local fishing companies that collectively funded half of the $52 million pricetag on the project. "What we've developed in New Zealand has huge benefits for fish stocks, the environment, consumers and New Zealand's seafood industry. In thie process we're set to change the global fishing industry for the better."
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that up to 40% of annual global marine catch is caught as bycatch. When they are thrown back into the wild, these fish species (along with marine mammals) tend to be already dead or dying.
"Why do we have to strain these fish?" Asked Alistair Jerrett of Plant and Food Research in a press release issued by PSH earlier this month. "Why do we have to exhaust them? Why do we have to damage them during harvest?"
The PSH technology replaces traditonal net technology with a much longer trawl designed with a PVC plastic liner. PSH trawls have escape hatches built into the net itself to allow juvenile fish the ability to escape unhurt. As fish are loaded onboard, they are kept in a watery cage - allowing a much smarter release of bycatch back into the wild. Bill Healey, who works for Sealord, one of the companies who participated in the joint government/industry relationship said, said it was hard at first to get his fishermen on board with a new net technology but that has since changed.
"When we talk to them now, when we see their reactions to the fish coming up, we know we're onto something unique."