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Reducing Bycatch with Underwater Cameras

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How can underwater cameras reduce bycatch and improve fishing vessel efficiency?

Unlike a farmer who can always have an eye on their crops and livestock, fishermen immediately lose sight of their fishing gear once it slips below the waves. As a consequence, they cannot see how fish and marine life are interacting with it, which limits their ability to effectively reduce bycatch or make adjustments to their fishing gear if needed. Hence the need for a solution.

For fishermen, bycatch is frustrating. Catching unwanted species ends up being a waste of time, effort, and money during fishing operations. For the marine life caught ascollateral bycatch, the results are often fatal. Furthermore, bycatch can lead to overfishing and ends up affecting the whole ecosystem and reducing future fishing opportunities.

“We have no desire to be out at sea all day every day, if we can fish more precisely everybody is a winner. The crew’s job on deck becomes easier, the boat becomes more profitable as we will need to input less resources to catch the fish” shared a skipper from NE Scotland.

So, how to “fish more precisely”? For the skipper above, that meant implementing CatchCam cameras onto his fishing gear.

Cameras to reduce bycatch

In order to reduce bycatch, fishermen first need to see what their fishing gear is doing. And underwater cameras allow them to do that.

Bycatch mitigation techniques are commonly used on fishing gear and are often required by law. In the UK, most trawl nets must have square mesh panels. These are areas of the net with a large open mesh that allow non-target and undersized fish to escape the fishing net before reaching the cod end. 

Attaching an underwater video camera overlooking the square mesh panel allows the skipper to see how many, and what types of fish are using it to escape the fishing net and, as a consequence,  see what adjustments are needed to improve its performance. That’s exactly what this next skipper did. 

CatchCam recording fish escape trawler net through square mesh panel

By placing CatchCam camera into his trawl net, he was able to observe that the square mesh panel was placed too low in the net. 

While some fish were escaping the panel as predicted, smaller fish were still getting caught. As it turns out,  juvenile fish were often observed to be too fatigued and disoriented by the suspended sediment and unable to swim up to the square mesh panel and out of the net. So the underwater footage provided evidence of why the trawl was still catching small fish and direction on what actions should be taken to overcome the problem.

Simply by seeing what is happening, fishermen are able to make small practical changes to their gears to reduce unwanted bycatch. This way, CatchCam can help them fine-tune the fishing gear on a vessel-by-vessel basis.  Which also allows fishermen to use the underwater footage to monitor their gear efficiency and catch behaviour.

It starts with Precision Fishing

Overfishing and bycatch are huge global problems with few proven solutions. At SafetyNet Technologies we are developing tools that can empower commercial fishermen to catch more of their target species sustainably. We call this Precision Fishing. Using a variety of practical solutions, like our underwater camera CatchCam, we can better understand what is happening during fishing operations. 

This way, Precision Fishing tools can make fishing more predictable, profitable and sustainable.

Want know more about how CatchCam can help to improve your fishing? Email Tom at tom@sntech.co.uk. 

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