By: Amanda Froelich,
For seafood enthusiasts or native fishers in general, it’s part love of the ocean as well as savvy for competition that drives the industry. Now with a new found plan to capture fish alive and even save species not intended for harvest, it’s an environmental leap in the right direction unearthed from New Zealand.
The new way to catch fish alive and unharmed was secretly designed in Nelson and holds claim to ‘revolutionize the fishing industry’, according to Seafood New Zealand chairman Eric Barratt.
Precison Seafood Harvesting (PSF) was suggested several years ago by the Nelson Plant and Food Research group; however it took an investment of $52 million by three of New Zealand’s biggest seafood companies and the Government to develop the idea and win the skeptics over.
Under confidential agreement until early February, dozens of people of the Sealord trawler Otakou worked to create the system which has been successfully trailed in commercial volumes. This newly implemented system allows small fish to escape unharmed and bigger fish to be brought on board trawlers alive and in top condition. They can then be sorted with bycatch species released.
Rather than a traditional net, the new method uses a PCV liner that holds water within a tunnel, cutting stress, fatigue, and physical damage to fish in the harvesting process. Allowing small, unwanted fish to escape through the holes in the liner while underwater saves non-mature species and keeps alive those that are caught. “There would be more adequately sized fish in the ocean if they were not being caught accidentally as juveniles” said Barratt. Important for the industry as well, those fish that are caught would be of higher quality, and without blood stains and bruising, he said.
Mr. Barratt, whom has had a long time career in the industry, along with Sealord Group chief executive Graham Stuart said the un-veiling of the system was the most exciting development of their lives. With Sealord, Sanford and iwi-owned Aoteroa Fisheries partnering with Plant & Foods to develop the system, it was the Government who matched the industry’s contribution dollar for dollar and stimulated not only a refreshing idea, but a sustainable new method.
New Zealand companies expect the new and world-wide patented ‘cod end’ to create excitement in the fishing industry around the globe, opening up new ways to both conserve fish stocks and ensure premium-quality fish get to markets.
Because it can bring fish up alive from 200 meters, catches from deep water unable to survive the ascent can be landed in much better condition than the present method which squeezes them into a compact mass in the cod end.
Barrat said PSH aimed to achieve a “fundamental shift” in the industry, from a focus on catching seafood to a focus on handling it. “It will make possible fish handling outcomes that have never been thought of using conventional methods.”
Mr. Stuart proudly stated it was an opportunity for New Zealand to lead the world, allowing the fish industry to catch up with the current standards of seafood presentation currently only available to aquaculture. “Imagine a world where every fish is landed on the deck of a boat alive.” he said. “The possibilities beyond that through this post-harvest process are endless and exciting”.
With hopes that all deep water fishing industry around the world will eventually change to the new technology, it seems potentially possible that both wildlife will be saved and man can benefit from his thoughtful labor. Sealord already reported catching as much fish in one day using PSH as with the conventional methods on the Otakou and prospectively estimated the same for larger trawlers. “You lose none of the scale but you get all the quality. “
Whether one abstains from seafood products or lives for the catch, it’s a new solution which offers more humane treatment and environmentally safe alternative for fishermen and ocean life alike.