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Landing Obligation trawl gear trials

6th November 2019

New Landing Obligation for trawlers selectivity trials

Since February 2017 a fishing industry led collaborative project, aimed at eliminating the capture of juvenile and non-commercial fish species, has been underway. The Northern Ireland Gear Trials project works closely with both NI fish producer organisations and their members and, since the project start date, has collected ideas from fishermen on potential ways to improve the selectivity of their fishing gears.

Scientific support and gear technology expertise are provided by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and SeaFish respectively and regulatory and legislative guidance is provided to the project by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Participation and engagement with the aims of the project from industry have exceeded expectations from the outset and the project now has more ideas and suggestions than resources allow to develop. To date the project has managed 12 gear trial sea trips using a variety of under 12m and over 12m nephrops trawlers.

Several ideas have been developed, tested, refined and re-tested over this time. Some of these consist of modifications to current gears (nets) such as new escape points or inclined sheets of netting within trawls to encourage fish up and out.

More novel approaches to improving gear selectivity have involved attaching lights to various parts of gears and fitting luminous netting to effect fish behaviour.

Outcome indicates reduced unwanted by-catch

From the outcomes of the gear trials that have been run over the past 3 years the results indicate that it is possible to reduce unwanted fish catch in a nephrops trawl, however complete elimination of this component of the catch remains the main objective. The project is also acutely aware that any modifications to gears cannot and must not affect the catch of the target species which in the case of the Irish Sea is nephrops.

This work has been driven by the implementation of the Landing Obligation and is focused on providing industry with the support and means to continue fishing whilst meeting the challenges resulting from this new piece of legislation.

Further development and contact details

With further selective gear development and trials at sea already being planned for 2020 the project remains focused on working with industry to develop practical solutions to meet their sustainability and conservation objectives.

For more information an any aspect of the work being undertaken in Northern Ireland you can contact the project manager at or visit the project facebook page -

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