Bigger mesh reduces discards

Not really a surprising statement but a BRIXHAM based fisherman who has been taking part in sustainable fishing sea trials says he will continue using bigger mesh nets to filter out unwanted catches.

Sean Gibbs, skipper of trawler Barentzee, started using bigger nets 18 months ago and says he will not go back to using the smaller 130ml mesh nets again.

Sean fishes for dover sole, plaice, lemon sole, monkfish, turbot and brill and is one of 10 Brixham boats who have agreed to take part in a series of sea trials run by scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the scientific research organisation dedicated to conserving and enhancing the aquatic environment.

In the groundbreaking ongoing experiment, Cefas is working with trawlermen from Brixham and Plymouth, using different net designs and mesh sizes in a trial bid to reduce the discarding of juvenile fish to safeguard their industry.

Cefas says it is widely accepted that as much as 50 per cent of a catch is juvenile fish which has to be thrown back overboard because they are too small to sell or EU legislation won’t allow them to be caught.

Sean has twice welcomed scientists on board Barentzee, who painstakingly tracked his catches and as Sean explained: "We used big nets on one side of the trawler and small ones on the other side and there was a 63 per cent reduction in the number of small crabs, little crustaceans and small shellfish caught, all that was escaping through the bigger mesh.

"I’m happy with the results and I wouldn’t change back.

"I would say we are getting better money for our fish using bigger mesh nets because it’s better quality.

He added: "You’ve got to have sustainable nowadays. If you can let the small stuff go to breed, there will always be something there for tomorrow." – now that has always been true – ssacn

A Cefas spokesman said: "If the results are good and widely adopted among the beam trawlers of Devon and, hopefully, much further afield, this could prove a significant breakthrough in attempts to preserve fish stocks.

"Fishermen and scientists will have worked in a practical partnership, with the emphasis on tangible outcomes and positive relationships."

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