Experimental nephrops net gets restaurant and Euro backing
May 02 2012 Lewis Smith
Jim Cowie says such nets are part of the future
An experimental trawl net for nephrops fisheries has been backed by an influential European group of experts after finding it slashed discards by more than 70 per cent.
The flip flap trawl, which has three escape points for fish, was found in tests involving the Scottish nephrops fleet to reduce cod discards by 73 per cent by weight, haddock by 67 per cent and whiting by 82 per cent.
Members of the European Commission’s Scientific and Technical Committee for Fisheries (STECF) praised the fishing industry for its willingness to devise the trawl net as a means of contributing to sustainable catches.
It was also welcomed by Jim Cowie, chef and owner of the Captain’s Galley restaurant in Scrabster, who said it was a “win win” measure for the fishing industry and conservation.
The STECF was unable to assess the effectiveness for juveniles with the data it received from the trial but there were indications it worked better for adult fish. Results, however, have been sufficiently impressive that the net will now be taken up by more UK vessels as part of the European cod recovery plan.
In their report on the net members of the STECF concluded: “The results presented demonstrate that the flip-flap trawl significantly reduced the catches of adult cod, haddock and whiting by levels greater than 70 per cent by weight.
They added: “The UK fishing industry has undertaken a number of initiatives to develop technical measures with the aim of reducing cod catch. One such initiative, the ‘flip-flap’ trawl, has been developed and tested by the industry. STECF commends such bottom-up initiatives.
“STECF notes that the device is likely to offer a likely mechanism to reduce fish by-catch in all Nephrops fisheries.”
Mr Cowie, whose restaurant overlooks a fishing harbour, said of the net: “It’s looking to the future. It’s a win as far as the stocks are concerned and it’s a win as far as the fishermen are concerned.”
Rather than “shovelling all those unwanted fish over the side”, he said, fishermen will be able to concentrate on landing the nephrops they are looking for.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish fishermen’s Federation, described the technical committee’s approval as “a vote of confidence in the innovation and determination of our fishermen to develop new types of selective fishing gear to reduce discards”.
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