Photo: Claus S. Hansen

New equipment to ensure fewer bycatches

Monday 24 Apr 17


Jordan P. Feekings
Head of Section
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 32 92
Shorter time from idea to commissioning of new fishing gear. This is the idea behind a new research project in which DTU is a participant.

By Martine Line Krebs

Cod fisherman Claus S. Hansen was incredulous when he wound in his trawl net. Inside the net was only 14 kg of flounder—not even enough to fill a single crate. The day before, following exactly the same track, he had landed 50 crates of flounder east of Bornholm. The difference was that on that occasion, he had tested new equipment as part of the FastTrack project, which aims to shorten the road from idea to the commissioning of new and more low-impact fishing gear.

For several months each year, bycatches of flounder pose a major challenge for cod fishermen in the Baltic Sea, as discarding the flounder is a gigantean task. Claus is one of four fishermen participating in the FastTrack project—a research initiative under the auspices of DTU Aqua, Aalborg University, the Danish Fishermen Producers Organisation (DFPO), and SINTEF—the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology. The project aims to simplify the fishing equipment development process and ensure better involvement on the part of the fishing industry and dragnet manufacturers.

Claus S. Hansen has received funding to purchase three specially engineered grates, which allow small cod and flounder to escape from his trawl. He has combined the new grates with an elastic system of his own invention, which divides his trawl into three chambers—ensuring that primarily large cod slip through to the third chamber while the flounder swim out through the grates earlier in the trawl.

Photo: Claus S. Hansen  


“I’ve struggled with the flounder for many years. I’ve been waiting to try these grates for a long time, but they were so expensive that I didn’t dare order them. So I think it’s great that we fishermen now have the opportunity to test new equipment and that we’re all helping to pay for it,” says Claus P. Hansen.

Faster from idea to legislation

FastTrack has received a DKK 6 million funding pool through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund— and the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark.

Fishermen from all over Denmark and from all types of fishing with ideas for equipment improvement can now apply directly to FastTrack and thus avoid the long, difficult process of applying for money, analysis, and reporting to The Danish AgriFish Agency—a process which can easily take between two and three years before new equipment finds its way into the law, explains FastTrack project manager, researcher Jordan Feekings from DTU Aqua.

“Fishermen with a good idea get in touch with us. We examine previously performed tests and pay for part of the cost of adapting the equipment. The fisherman then tests the new equipment, after which time we carry out a scientific investigation and draw up a report so that the modification can hopefully find its way into legislation,” he explains.

The FastTrack project is a collaborative platform between fishermen, dragnet manufacturers, and researchers with the aim of ensuring the efficient, smooth, and low-cost development of new equipment. At the same time, researchers must ensure knowledge sharing about the new equipment throughout the entire fishing industry. Another benefit of the FastTrack project is that it allows for an actual development phase during which the equipment is tested, modified, and tested again.

“The development phase is important, as often the equipment doesn’t function perfectly on the first trial. In the present system, there is often no real opportunity for a development phase,” explains Jordan Feekings.

Photo: Claus S. Hansen

Harbour envy

At the harbour in Svaneke, the other fishermen look enviously on, as Claus S. Hansen most days can make do with reeling in around 150 kg of flounder—whereas they have to struggle with around two and a half tonnes. The flounder in particular pose a challenge for the fishermen in the Baltic Sea between January and April. Claus S. Hansen also notices a difference in his cod.

“They’re completely smooth and slimy so they’re really difficult to hold. But for me, it shows that the system works. It means that the small cod and the flounder also suffer less damage and thus have a greater chance of survival,” he says.

At the moment, FastTrack is a three-year project, but Jordan Feekings hopes that it will be so successful that it will become a permanent platform:

“I hope we can show that this system works and makes the development of new equipment simpler and more inclusive for fishermen so it leads to better fishing.”