, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 17-31
Date: 28 Apr 2007

Gear technology in Nephrops trawl fisheries

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Abstract

Nets with a small mesh size are required to catch Nephrops norvegicus, consequently large quantities of small whitefish are also caught, and much of this bycatch is undersized and is discarded dead. The main bycatch species are whiting (Merlangius merlangus), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) and cod (Gadus morhua). Here we summarize the known behavioural reactions of these species towards conventional trawls and review the results of using different trawl modifications to increase selectivity of Nephrops trawls. The trawl modifications are categorised as separator grids, separator and guiding panels, square-mesh panels, capture avoidance designs and codend modification. Finally, the extent to which these developments have been legislated for is discussed including the conditions under which new gear regulations have been introduced.

Haddock and whiting rise during the trawling process facilitating their separation from Nephrops and escape, however the behaviour of small fish of these species is less consistent. Cod and Nephrops remain on bottom of the trawl, so to separate these species requires some physical filtering process. Overall, there is currently sufficient technical ability to improve selectivity in Nephrops trawls. The design of choice is dependent on the objectives of managers; for reducing discards but retaining marketable fish, square-mesh panels offer the most useful tool; to eliminate all bycatch and create a single-species fishery, grids and traditional Nephrops trawls show most potential. Whatever the objectives of the new measures, it is likely that a short-term economic impact will follow, and some form of incentive may be required to implement effective measures. A voluntary uptake of new measures by industry is preferable, however, to date, restrictions on fishing opportunities have been necessary to introduce innovative gear designs.