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Update on Prawn Trawl Gear Trials from Ben Collier

20th September 2018

Prawn trawl trials in its second year

The Northern Ireland Gear Trials project is now into its second year of an initial two year long, EMFF funded programme that aims to design, trial and implement more selective fishing gears for the purpose of reducing un wanted by-catch associated with the catching of prawns by trawlers in the Irish Sea. The focus of the project from the outset has been to engage closely with industry, specifically fishermen, skippers and gear manufacturers with links to the the three main fishing harbours of Northern Ireland situated at Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel. Regular visits to all three harbours and many formal and informal discussions with those that have the knowledge and experience of working with fishing gear has led to the compilation of a short list of potential selective gear designs.

Since 2017

Since 2017, the project has taken two of these designs through to a manufacturing stage and has trialled them over multiple sea trips using member vessels of both Northern Ireland based producer organisations (POs), ANIFPO and NIFPO. Further support is provided by DEARA, Seafish and AFBI. Aside from developing design ideas brought forward by industry and others, the project has also been committed to exploring novel approaches to reduce discards. Two sets of gear trials have been run over the past 20 months where lights have been attached at different locations on the fishing gears. Whilst this aspect of fishing gear selectivity is still in its infancy the preliminary data that has been collected suggests that certain colours of lights may have potential for influencing fish behaviour in ways that may assist them with escaping from a net once caught. To date the Northern Ireland project has carried out 9 separate trials of developmental fishing gears at sea using 6 local fishing vessels. Four local gear manufactures have been used to make the gears used on each trial. One of the initial designs of selective trawl that has undergone repeated trialling and modifications has showed some real potential in removing fish from prawn trawls and further work will continue to refine this design as well as collecting new ones through further industry engagement.

Moving forward

The Northern Ireland Gear Trial project will continue to run throughout the remainder of 2018. With full implementation of the landing obligation set for 1st January 2019 the project remains committed to working with industry to achive the best possible outcome for the fishermen For further information on the project you can contact the project manager at or visit the project facebook page - Northern Ireland Gear Trials Project 2017 - 2019.

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