FIS011-B: SMARTFISH Selective retention

Start Date: May 2016

End Date: Nov 2016

Main Contractor(s): University of Aberdeen

Other Sponsor(s): European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

Extended Title: Developing and facilitating a range of possible future FIS projects in innovation in selectivity through on-net or alternative technologies

Main Research Category: Discard Reduction - Technical

View Final Report


Project Objectives

Mitigating the impacts of the landings obligation (LO) will require the Scottish fishing industry to implement a range of different strategies. This project will develop plans for implementing two complementary strategies — spatial selectivity and gear selectivity —  in the Scottish demersal industry which is heavily impacted due to the mixed nature of fish in the North Sea and west of Scotland. Building on from the successful implementation of area closures by the industry, the project will outline a detailed plan for enhancing spatial selectivity through improvements to real-time information flow within the industry so as to rapidly identify areas to be avoided (“hotspots”). This plan will be informed by expertise in the US Pollock fishery and developed through consultations with the Scottish fishing industry. A comprehensive review of relevant geo-referenced databases will be undertaken to identify any barriers to improved information flow. To improve gear selectivity in the industry the project will develop a highly innovative design for a gate that releases unwanted discards and bycatch by integrating state-of-the-art image analysis, artificial intelligence and underwater engineering (SmartTrawl). This enhanced gear selectivity would improve compliance with the LO and deal with by-catch mitigation for non-quota species such as the vulnerable sharks, rays and other charismatic megafauna. To achieve both of these goals the project will facilitate knowledge exchange between fishing industry and technology experts and scientists from the U.S. and Norway having direct experience with by-catch reduction. Stakeholder engagement with the Scottish industry will ensure that the plans are achievable in the near term, e.g., by 2019. The technical requirements and a future work scope for implementing both plans will be summarised in the form of draft proposals for enhancing selectivity and potential funding sources will be identified as well as prospective partners for future programme of work.  Consistent with the call, the project will capitalise on world-leading expertise in selectivity enhancement and promote the innovative use of emerging technologies, e.g., the use of hotspot mapping and image processing of trawl footage.


Specific Objectives

  1. a) Research Objective(s) *. Technical and Scientific aims of the research which must be measurable and time-bound, please number the objectives. If your application is accepted, these objectives will be included in the agreement between you and FIS. Please, therefore, restrict your entry to the salient points and set these out clearly and concisely.

This project will develop a detailed technical understanding of how to enhance spatial and gear selectivity in Scottish demersal fisheries so as to allow them to make more effective tactical fishing decisions in response to the LO.

Objective 1 Enhanced spatial selectivity

1.1) Review the suitability of existing electronic databases for real-time information processing and dissemination that are relevant to space/time distribution of relevant species. This work will be conducted by the PDRA (R. Wiff) in consultation with Marine Scotland Science (C. L. Needle and R. Catarino);

1.2) Engage with the Scottish fishing industry (through inter alia workshop) about how the current use of real-time catch information for unwanted species in the EBS walleye pollock fishery was developed and implemented with a view to fostering willingness within the Scottish industry to share information. Experts from the U.S. who have agreed to participate in a local meeting include: K. Halflinger (Sea State Inc., Seattle), E. Torgerson (‎Chordata Ltd., Anchorage) and J. Gruver (United Catcher Boats, Seattle), There is also the intention (proposed by M. Park SWFPA) to schedule an information session with the North Sea Advisory Council so that the US experts working in the EBS can present information to the wider European community;

1.3) Consult with industry (including K. Coull of SFF and relevant producer organisations, e.g., Aberdeen Fish Producers Organisation and the North East of Scotland Fishermen’s Organisation) and Marine Scotland to establish what is feasible and desirable for the Scottish fleet so as to allow realistic goals for future work on spatial selectivity to be defined. This will include a review of the use of observer programmes for generating relevant data;

1.4) On the basis of consultations undertaken in 1.1), 1.2) and 1.3), develop a detailed set of technical requirements for implementation of spatial selectivity tools that are feasible from both government and industry perspectives;

1.5) Identify enabling funds that would support future research and development for 1.4) and develop a plan for submitting a detailed proposal to suitable funding sources.

Objective 2 Enhanced gear selectivity

2.1) Review the current progress in underwater stereo imagery, image analysis and mechanical sorting devices, to document the state of the art and determine what is required for the sizing, identification, and retention of species commonly caught in the North Sea which are subject to quota (cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, hake, prawns (Nephrops norvegicus), anglerfish, ling).

2.2) Conduct a workshop to discuss and detail specific requirements for the SmartTrawl, a species and size selective device that would be acceptable for use in the mixed demersal trawl fishery.  In addition to the consortium represented here, this workshop will invite fishing representatives and fishermen from the nearby ports of Aberdeen and Fraserburgh.  This may be run in conjunction with 1.2 above. 

2.3)  To put together a research proposal to build the SmartTrawl in 5 phases:

Phase 1  Design & development: Develop a stereo camera and image analysis system for species and size identification appropriate for the Scottish mixed demersal trawl fishery. Design a trawl gate system to allow non-target fish species to escape from a trawl.

Phase 2.  Testing.  Test the camera system on a research vessel trawl at first; then adapt the system and make it more robust prior to testing on a commercial vessel trawl; in various seasons and locations.  Build a model gate and test in flume tanks.

Phase 3.   Integration.  Link the gate with the image capture and analysis system to be controlled manually from the bridge of a commercial fishing vessel so that the user can select which fish to retain in real time.

Phase 4.  AI. Develop the artificial intelligence (AI) for the gate to be operated automatically based on user generated preferences of catch composition.

Phase 5. Final product.  Test the entire SmartTrawl system on a commercial vessel trawl.

In essence the current proposal (FIS011) is a precursor to allow this work to be scoped out in detail for the larger funding source that would be required.  We have identified two possible sources of suitable funding for this: 1) the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund; and 2) the Horizon 2020 call: H2020-SFS-2016-2017 “Smart fisheries technologies for an efficient, compliant and environmentally friendly fishing sector”.

Objective 3  Linking spatial and gear selectivity.

3.1) Evaluate how the two strategies described above can be used synergistically to assist the Scottish demersal fleet in complying with the LO.  For example, by ensuring that fishing vessels avoid areas where non-target fish are abundant (“hotspots”) will help with the effectiveness of the SmartTrawl because the system is likely to be limited by the rates at which the non-target species can be selected. Going to places where these non-target fish are at a minimum (“coldspots”) will enhance the effectiveness of the SmartTrawl.  Once in the areas of target species, employing the SmartTrawl will help to ensure that any non-target species would not be caught.