New design could prevent sickening waste of sea life and economic output
When fisherman pull their nets onboard, there is often a wide variety of fish and ocean wildlife – including sea turtles and dolphins – that get thrown back into the sea. The only problem is that many of them are already dead or dying, which poses a huge threat to sustainable fish populations and marine ecosystems. Thankfully, one British designer has come up with SafetyNet, a new trawling system that uses LED lights and clever design to reduce the amount of bycatch.
To put the problem in perspective quickly, last year British fishermen discarded two out of every three fish caught, while in the US, Oceana calculated that discarded fish could be worth as much as $1 billion every year.
Dan Watson, a freelance designer who works across various fields, has devised a solution that uses fish physiology and psychology to make trawling more of a selective process. The key problem his design deals with is the fact that when nets are being dragged through the water, the meshes in the net are squeezed shut which prevents juvenile fish from escaping. Dan’s solution is simple enough – a reinforcing ring fitted with LEDs that holds the meshes open, and offers a high contrast target through which younger fish can escape.
“There can be no villains, there can be no victims, there are just problems,” Watson says. “I started this project because I wanted to go some way towards solving that problem.”
Dan’s design also taps into fish psychology for better results. For example: Cod, which is an endangered species, swims towards the seabed when stressed, while haddock and whiting swims towards the surface. Separator panels in the trawl, coupled with loose meshing in on the bottom half of the net, would mean that cod are able to escape, while haddock and whiting remain trapped.
There are two versions available; one which requires changing the batteries periodically, and another, self-charging variation that that uses a built-in turbine so the batteries never have to be replaced. The trawling system deals with other issues as well. It sits 1m off the surface of the seabed, which prevents any damage to the delicate seabed, and further reduces the amount of bycatch.
Here’s the original video that explains exactly how the net works:
For a much more in-depth look at the issue (which is an important one if we want to continue feeding ourselves), read this article over at Ensia.
Images by SafetyNet and Salvatore Barbera