Fleetwood has played a key role in novel new trawl designs proven to radically reduce the amount of fish thrown back into the sea and wasted.
The work carried out involves a leading scientist, a respected trawl net manufacturer and a fisherman –all from Fleetwood.
And it could have a massive and positive impact on the fishing industry in Britain, especially as a looming ban on discarded fish in 2015 could cause more problems for Britain’s fishermen, and impose more expensive ways of disposing of unwanted fish.
Tests have now been completed and the results have proved hugely encouraging.
The work was carried out by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) after fishermen and prawners in Fleetwood and Whitehaven wanted to look at ways of reducing catches of unwanted fish – specimens too young and small for the food industry – without affecting their good catches .
CEFAS set to work on the North West Discards project, with funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and other backers, and the scheme saw fishermen working with scientists.
Fleetwood man Shaun Doran, lead CEFAS scientist for Northern Britain, led the innovative design of the trawls which radically reduced discards.
Boris Nets in Fleetwood manufactured the new nets for the trials.
And Fleetwood skipper Gary Mitchinson, who owns the vessel Albion, was among the fishermen involved in trialling the new trawls.
Shaun, who comes from a fishing background, said; “We trialled the new designs, then made detailed assessments.
“What it means is that we can transform the way fishermen can work.
“The design doesn’t affect the amount of prawn, or sole or skate, they catch in any way.
“But it does stop a large amount of the discards.”
After early trials using designs created with several skippers, the project was whittled down to three designs which performed the best, with Shaun’s “floating bridal” design being the most effective.
“By not scraping along the seafloor, the design reduced the herding effect of small fish and avoided them being scooped into fishing nets.
Environment Minister Richard Benyon has now made a commitment to introduce selective trawls into prawn fisheries, proving the evidence gained from the scheme can result in wider policy.