A summary report on the Northern Ireland Gear Trials Project 2019 has been released looking at the use of selective gear trials in the North Channel.

The NI Gear Trials involve Seafish, ANIFPO, NIFPO, The Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs, the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (afbi) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

In 2019 the NI Gear Trials project  extended the work on selective gear development that it managed throughout the 2-year project funded by the EMFF that ran from 2017 – 2018. 

Further gear trials of the Inclined Net Grid device have been undertaken using chartered fishing vessels from Ardglass and Portavogie harbours. 

In addition, work involving lights was undertaken using a chartered fishing vessel local to Kilkeel harbour. 

For 2019,  the project also managed the first extended gear trial. 

This differed from other gear trials that have been undertaken to date. In these trials the skipper was responsible for the recording/collection of data rather than trained observers. 

The advantage to this approach was that an idea on improving trawl selectivity was trialled over a longer period than would usually be available on a chartered trial and at a lower cost. 

Whilst further work is needed to address unwanted effects on target catch, trials of the inclined net grid are indicating that it can be efficient at removing fish from a trawl. 

The project has received a lot of feedback on this device off the back of the trials that have been completed so far and suggestions received from some fishermen on how to retain groundfish and allow debris to pass underneath the inclined panel may be incorporated into trials that are currently being planned for March/April 20202. 

Similarly, feedback received from the skipper who trialled luminous netting during the extended gear trial is being used in the planning of a chartered gear trial for the same period next year. 

A comprehensive understanding of the technical aspects of fishing gears being used by the NI TR2 fleet is continuing to be built upon with the project receiving new information through its regular interactions with industry around the three harbours. Industry support for the work of the project remains high and new ideas and suggestions on how Landing Obligation challenges, particularly gear selectivity, may be addressed continue to be received by the FCT. 

In addition to engaging directly with industry in 2019 the project has continued to promote the selective gear innovation work within and outside Northern Ireland through presentations, meetings, articles in publications, net demonstrations and social media. 

The project has collaborated with the Seafish economics team to refine a gear trials economic assessment and AFBI to provide technical gear training to their observer programme. 

For an indepth look at the report more can be read at NI Gear Trials 2019.

Summary Report on Northern Ireland Fishing Gear Trials released

by editor time to read: 7 min