The Virtuous to assess the impact of the Pisces LED light on the unwanted bycatch in the NE Scottish mixed demersal fishery

The Virtuous under 12-month trial to assess the impact of the Pisces LED lights on the unwanted bycatch in the NE Scottish mixed demersal fishery

The fishing vessel Virtuous FR253 begins its 12-month trial, in collaboration with Associated Seafoods Ltd (ASL), Marks & Spencer (M&S), Young’s Seafood and the fishing technology company SNTech. The project will assess the impact of the Pisces LED light on the unwanted bycatch in the NE Scottish mixed demersal fishery.

It is anticipated that the project will yield important advancements in precision fishing and contribute to the sustainability accreditation of the demersal fisheries including Nephrops. Currently, Nephrops are undergoing a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) towards MSC certification leading to greater sustainability and profitability for the fishery.

Even with their vast knowledge, skill and modern technologies, fishermen often have little control over their catch composition. This is about to change thanks to SNTech’s user-friendly artificial light device, Pisces. Using configurable LED lights, Pisces acts as an exit sign and guides unwanted catch fish out of the net or even prevents the fish entering the net in the first place. Increasing the net selectivity allows fishermen to reduce their bycatch- an outcome that every fisherman wants and a hurdle to MSC certification.

From April 2021 to April 2022, Skipper Sandy West and his crew on The Virtuous will be deploying Pisces lights with the guidance of SNTech in various positions and under pre-defined configurations to reduce the vessels bycatch and increase its overall operational performance.

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The changes will be monitored by the crew and analysed by SNTech scientists. By undertaking this project, with the advocacy and support of ASL, M&S, Young’s and SNTech, The Virtuous is hopeful in finding new and better ways of fishing and sharing its findings for the betterment of all vessels in the NE Scottish mixed demersal fishery.

In the NE Scottish mixed demersal fishery, boats like The Virtuous catch a mixture of species including Nephrops (scampi) and whitefish (e.g., cod, haddock). Although whitefish make up to 62% of the catch of the demersal mixed fishery, Nephrops are the most valuable stock accounting for up to 30% of the value of landings in 2018. Gaining MSC certification would give those working in the NE Scottish Mixed Demersal Fishery access to new and secure current markets. Additionally, greater sustainability and precision fishing will bring long-term biological, economic and social sustainability to the fishery.

The NE Scotland Mixed Demersal Fishery has undergone significant change over the past 20 years. Fishers have taken numerous economically and socially painful steps to address the decline of the fish stock. Whilst the stocks have generally recovered, more needs to be done. However, the fishing fleet finds itself in a precarious position where all available tools are deployed. New fit for purpose technologies, such as Pisces, give fishermen like Sandy another option and a new angle of attack in their battle to reduce and remove bycatch.

Fit and Forget

Pisces can be retrofitted on the fishing net and configured using a wireless remote control. With support from SNTech experts, Pisces can be rapidly deployed and left to operate for a full fishing trip without any further intervention by the crew – fit and forget.

Due to the seasonality of the NE Scottish mixed demersal fishery, The Virtuous and its crew must be ready to respond to sudden changes that occur on the fishing ground. Market forces also play a role in creating these fluctuations. If Pisces can help The Virtuous catch its target species more efficiently, whilst avoiding wasteful bycatch, Sandy and his crew will be hooked. “We have no desire to be out at sea all day every day, if we can fish more precisely everybody is a winner. The crew’s job on deck becomes easier, the boat becomes more profitable as we will need to input less resources to catch the fish. The environment benefits from less CO2 being emitted, everybody stands to gain if we can fish more precisely.”

Sandy went on to add: “this next year will be a real adventure for us, but it will not be without its risks. What if we scare away all the fish? We are taking a big risk here, but we believe it is worth it and having the support of SNTech and our customers, ASL, M&S and Youngs, makes a big difference.” A spokesperson from M&S went on to say, “Marks and Spenser are proud to support innovative technology to reduce unwanted bycatch in UK fisheries.” They emphasised, “It’s important that we show leadership on this issue and this project is an excellent example of this. We are working closely with our fishermen and suppliers to find workable solutions.”

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