Port plays vital role in nets problem

Gary Mitchinson (right) and David Wright on trawler Albion at Fleetwood Docks.
Gary Mitchinson (right) and David Wright on trawler Albion at Fleetwood Docks.

FLEETWOOD is playing a key role in efforts to reduce a serious fishing conundrum.

The problem of unwanted fish being caught by trawlermen and then reluctantly thrown back dead into the sea has been proved a headache for fishermen and conservationists alike.

It is being caused because many trawl nets currently in use also sweep up species that are not needed or those that cannot be landed because of quota restrictions.

The issue was recently highlighted on TV by presenter and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who has campaigned about the shocking waste of perfectly good fish through his sustainable fish battle.

The Centre for Environmental, Fishing and Agricultural Science (CEFAS), is currently looking to develop trawl nets whose mesh designs will hopefully allow boats to catch the fish they require, but allow other species to swim free.

Trials have already taken place and will be continuing, and Fleetwood has a strong involvement because the trawl nets being trialed have been manufactured in Fleetwood by Boris Nets, on Copse Road. And among the vessels involved in the trials is Fleetwood inshore fishing boat Albion, skippered by local man Gary Mitchinson.

Project manager Tom Catchpole said: “It is worth stressing that this is a collaborative effort and that fishermen themselves are helping to drive it forward.

“The biggest challenge is the technical challenge. In this case we need the nets to be able to retain the nephrops or sole – the species that the boats need to catch – but not the dabs and undersized plaice.

“The trials have been hampered a little by the weather, so will have to continue into next year.”

Mr Howard said: “It is not just about mesh sizes, it is also about the behaviour of the fish. By studying how they behave in the nets, we can take measures to try and prevent them from being caught.”