An innovative trawling technique has been developed in New Zealand, jointly funded by the government and three major local companies. The new technology - called "Precision Seafood Harvesting" - uses a large tube-shaped PVC liner to catch a specific species of fish while allowing other species to escape. Eric Barrat, CEO of one of the partner companies, Sanford, calls it "the biggest step forward for commercial fishing in 150 years".
The failings of traditional mesh trawls have long been known: they damage the catch, net small and big fish indiscriminately, and even trap some marine mammals. Many fish are already dead in the net when lifted on-board.
Inside the large flexible PVC tube, however, the fish still swim and small fish can swim free, through ‘escape portals’. Once the liner is lifted back ondeck, non-target fish (by-catch) can be released back into the water unharmed.
It also means that fishermen can guarantee supplies of live fish to markets and restaurants and position New Zealand in high-end international export markets.
Five boats have been testing the new system so far, but it will be at least a year before it goes into commercial use.