The high-tech future of fishery

Valeria Vlasova
13.04.2021
2 min read

Fishery definitely has an impact on the environment. Harvesting of aquatic resources and production is done either in the wild (capture fisheries) or in controlled environments (aquaculture). Both of them use a large variety of technologies – from artisanal to highly-industrial – encompassing vessels and equipment as well as fishing gears and different methods (1). Not all of them are sustainable though.

Technical advances and new materials have generally led to cheaper and more efficient fishing operations, the reduction of the physical labour. Luckily, there are fishery technologies that use modern science not only for human’s benefits but also for healthy seas. 

Monitoring technologies

Monitoring technologies improve fisheries management and help to prevent a bycatch. Collaborative monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) tools rely not on the decisions taken by the authorities in control but on the willingness of a given vessel’s captain which participates in the system (2).

Collecting data on vessel movements can improve compliance with fisheries policies by allowing governments to collect near real-time observations of fishing vessel positions. MCS is now a standard part of fishing operations and fisheries management in many countries (2).

Smart boats, equipped with sensors, AI and networks, generate an unprecedented new level of information about fisheries and the oceans. Smart boats could monitor fishing activity in close to real time, identify and count fish in photos and videos, and quickly send and receive a variety of fishing data (3).

SMARTFISH H2020 is an EU initiative of a multinational collaboration set up to use emerging technology, like AI, machine vision and acoustics to help fishermen make more informed decisions. All of the tools that SMARTFISH H2020 uses are aimed to help fishermen to better understand the fish stocks in a given area and reduce overfishing and bycatch (4).

Blockchain

Implementation of blockchain technology in the fishing industry was first made in 2017. Three companies partnered in order to create the first dedicated blockchain system for origin data and tracking for the international seafood industry – the Earth Twine-Stratis Platform (2). This platform is supposed to provide the means to increase traceability for fish products, directly targeting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing products mixed within the value chain of legal products.

The system is still in progress and has a great potential, although some companies are sceptical about sharing commercial data for this platform.

Safety net

So called ‘ghost fishing’ is a bycatch which is caused by discarded, lost, or abandoned, fishing gear (usually nets) in the marine environment. These nets, often nearly invisible in the dim light, can be left tangled on a rocky reef or drifting in the open sea. It’s estimated that plastic lines, ropes and fishing nets comprise 52% of the plastic mass in the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, and affected not only fish but also seabirds, marine mammals and turtles (5).

SafetyNet Technologies, based in the UK, has developed LED lighting that clips to fishing gear and can switch between a range of colours and intensities, using behavioural response to light to target specific species. By illuminating the net in exactly the right recipe of light, fishermen could effectively programme their net to attract or repel exactly the species they want (6).