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Cod escape panel success

Construction of the experimental and control trawls. Photo: NAFC Marine Centre

SCIENTISTS working at the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway said they have had some promising initial results from trials of a newly developed panel that allows cod to escape from trawl nets.

With current quotas not reflecting the abundance of cod in the northern North Sea, fishermen regularly haul in huge bycatches of cod when targeting other whitefish species as part of a mixed fishery.

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A experimental square mesh panel designed by Arthur Johnson of the fisheries college has now shown that the unwanted bycatch of cod could be reduced by as much as two thirds.

The project, which has been funded by the Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) through the European Marine Fisheries Fund (EMFF), carried out 26 comparative hauls during a three month period this winter.

One of the lead scientists, Dr Chevonne Angus, said the escape panel was designed to utilise known behaviour of cod in the net.

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“The hypothesis was that cod, being powerful swimmers that are inclined to swim downwards would, after passing over the horizontal panel, swim forwards and downwards in the extension and then escape through the large mesh escape panel, while other species would fall back into the cod-end,” the report said.

“The results suggest that overall over two-thirds of cod were escaping from the experimental net, compared to the control net.

“No consistent differences in catches of other species were recorded between the control and experimental nets suggesting that other commercially important species were not finding the escape panel.”

Dr Angus added: “The purpose of the initial trials was to test the design concept and our results have shown that the design shows considerable potential. The results indicate that there would be merit in scaling up and trialling this with larger vessels and gear.

“Applied fisheries research, in support of the local industry, remains a key focus of the NAFC Marine Centre”.

The full technical report on the trials can be found at https://www.nafc.uhi.ac.uk/t4-media/one-web/nafc/research/document/Fraser-et-al-2018-Gear-trials-technical-summary-SCO1711.pdf 

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