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NI selective prawn trawl trials

11th February 2021

Trawl gear trials Industry project continues to make progress

Beginning in early 2017, the Northern Ireland commercial fishing industry has taken the lead in designing and developing innovative fishing gears that can avoid unwanted catch more efficiently than those being used currently. This work has been driven by the Landing Obligation, a key component of fisheries legislation and since 2017 the Northern Ireland Gear Trials Project has overseen this work.
Both of Northern Irelands fish producer organisations, ANIFPO & NIFPO respectively, alongside partners from the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the Department for Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) & Seafish sit on the project steering group and are responsible for reviewing ideas on fishing gear selectivity that are collected by the project manager through regular interactions with skippers, owners, crew and local gear manufacturers. This work is made possible with funding from the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund. The landing obligation requires fishermen to land all the quota species that they catch however a proportion of this catch is unwanted and cannot be sold for various reasons such as being too small, damaged, or not having enough available quota. This represents an unwanted cost to fishermen. Selective fishing gears that help to reduce this unwanted catch and avoid wasteful discarding at sea are therefore more sustainable for the environment and industry. To date, the Northern Ireland Gear Trials project has run multiple gear trials each year using chartered fishing vessels and several ideas have been tested. Ideas range from basic modifications to existing fishing gears; new trawl designs as well as the use of innovative technologies such as lights. Input and suggestions from industry have been so forthcoming that the project has many more ideas on file that have not been tested. Despite the added complications that COVID brought to everyone in 2020, the NI gear trials project was able to run trials during March and September with much progress being made. Results obtained from the trialling of two innovative fishing gear designs have been encouraging, both in terms of reducing unwanted catch more than standard gears as well as not affecting the target catch which in this case is prawns. Further time at sea is required to validate these results under different conditions but it is hoped that a new design of trawl that is more selective than existing trawls and economically viable can start to be implemented into the fishery. With funding secured up until 2022 and planning for the next trials at sea well underway the fishing industry in Northern Ireland is well placed to meet its own and the wider UK conservation objectives. For more information on the work of the Northern Ireland Gear Trials Project please visit the project FB page Northern Ireland Gear Trialling project 2017-2022 | Facebook

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