Like all fishermen, we have made many changes to how our gear fishes over the years. As we work towards the Landing Obligation we are having to fine tune our fishing gear so that we are able to take the fish we have the quota for and filter out the fish for which there is less quota available.
In most fisheries we experience what we call a choke species, these are species for which within our mixed fisheries we find them very abundant but the quota may be smaller than is needed, so the uptake of these species is deemed to be too high.
I would like to make it clear from the outset, a lot of the problems we face with choke species and thus in turn discards, are due mainly in part to the policy not matching the fishery, and also the science not keeping pace with the changes in stock size and recruitment quickly enough.
As fishermen, we get frustrated that we often get the blame for discarding within our mixed fisheries, and although we except there is work on our part to do in this area, policymakers need to understand they will have to play their part in solving this situation.
So even with the policy deficit we have now, we are having to find ways to adapt our gear to release these species but to try a retain the other species in our fishery and remain economically viable.
To achieve this is not as easy as you’d think. I believe a good way in achieving these aims is to knowledge share, which is why I’m sharing this trial (which can be found in more detail in the GearingUp tool) and why I contributed to the GearingUp workshop in Brixham, as I hope my contributions will help other fishermen with the challenges we are all facing.
Fishermen are natural problem solvers, so if policymakers could look to using quota incentives it could encourage fishermen to experiment with innovation more. I believe new technology and an incentive approach led by management are both needed to create world-leading sustainable fisheries for the UK
Crystal Sea selectivity trial
In our selectivity trial we cut back the headline trawls and reduced the total catch of Haddocks by 37%, we simply reduced the cover in our nets from 10 feet to 4 feet. In the picture below are some of the gear modifications we made in 2014, to reduce our catches of juvenile haddocks below the MLS (minimum landing size) and small haddocks above the MLS. Full details of the trial will be available in the GearingUp tool, which launches today. Click to explore it here: tool.gearingup.eu