SafetyNet Technologies recently teamed up with Darren McClements, skipper of the nephrops vessel FV Golden Ray and winner of the ‘Over 10m Fishermen of the Year’ 2023 Fishing News Award, and Whitby Seafoods, to run a commercial trial of Pisces LED lights.
“I have always been skeptical of square panels from they were introduced in the late 80’s, but with the help of SafetyNet Technologies’ lights and cameras it is the first time I have been able to see the reduction of juvenile fish from my catch and we can achieve more with these tools,” shared skipper Darren.
The trial, which began in April 2022, received funding through the WWF Tesco partnership, and planned to assess what colours of LED light had the most significant impact in reducing the bycatch of whitefish in a nephrops trawl.
Darren and the SafetyNet Technologies team began the trial by placing Pisces lights on the mouth and square mesh panel, facing upwards and down towards the seabed. However, across nearly 100 tows, the trials found that placing the LED lights in these areas had no impact on reducing bycatch.
To better understand the lack of impact, SafetyNet Technologies deployed its underwater camera, CatchCam, to view the fishing gear and LED lights in action. The footage from the camera, enabled skipper Darren McClements and colleagues at SafetyNet Technologies to see first-hand the impact of Pisces LED lights on fish behaviour in the net.
Based on the underwater footage, Darren suggested that CatchCam and the Pisces LED lights were moved to the cod end of the nephrops net. There, the team added a ‘Wire Panel’ where the water flow was slower, with the aim of enabling non-target species to exit the net more easily.
The final 13 tows, which had Pisces LED lights positioned at the cod end of the net, alongside the Wire Panel, saw 60% less haddock and 20% less whiting than trawls without these tools.
Whilst this was a limited, single-vessel trial, the findings indicate that the exact positioning of the Pisces lights on fishing gear, alongside other gear modifications, may potentially have a substantial influence on the overall impact of the lights in reducing bycatch.
Based on the findings of this trial, SafetyNet Technologies believes that the combination of underwater cameras, LED lights and a fisherman’s innovation, offer hope that the persistent issue of bycatch can be mitigated with relatively simple solutions. That said, it is vital that impacts are further tested and proven across a wide range of commercial settings.
It was not possible to draw a conclusion regarding the comparable impacts of lights of different colours through this trial, however SafetyNet Technologies will be exploring this further in future trials of Pisces and CatchCam, alongside Darren.
Tom Rossiter, Head of Precision Fishing at SafetyNet Technologies, commented that “these trials have shown the value of keeping an open mind and being flexible in your approach when carrying out commercial trials. Moreover, we would not have achieved the results we did on the last trip without Darren’s input and willingness to try things and having the footage from the CatchCam to show us what was working or not as was the case”
Lief Hendrikz, Sustainable Seafood Officer at WWF, said: “We are facing a Triple Challenge: addressing the climate crisis and reversing nature loss at the same time as continuing to produce healthy and nutritious food. UK fisheries can be a vital part of the solution, but only if they operate on a sustainable footing. Minimising bycatch is an essential step to making fisheries more sustainable, and is a key action area within the Fishery Improvement Project for the UK Nephrops Fishery.
“This project was a great example of cross-supply chain collaboration, which will be essential to put this fishery on a more sustainable footing. Fishers must be supported to drive down environmental impacts, including through innovation, if we are to deliver for the health of the oceans and help to save our Wild Isles.”
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SafetyNet Technologies hopes to commence further trials, with the aim of building up evidence of impact to support the wider uptake of these innovative approaches in nephrops fisheries.