Reducing unwanted bycatch

Impact story

Reducing unwanted bycatch

Due to pressure from society for sustainable and selective fisheries and the new European discard ban requiring bycatch and ‘discards’ (undersized fish) of fish species under a quota management to be brought to shore, the fishing industry requires innovative solutions.

Fishers, netmakers, and our scientists are working on innovations in trawls and fishing techniques as part of a collaborative research project. The goal is to develop selective trawls and fishing techniques for specific commercial species such as common sole and plaice, so that undersized and unwanted species are not caught and brought on board. The second objective is to increase the survival chances of unwanted fish and benthic organisms after they have been brought on board and are later thrown back into the sea.

Wageningen Marine Research is also conducting research into a promising broadband acoustic technique for the pelagic fishing industry that can be used to detect small acoustic differences between fish underneath the vessel. This technique for precise analysis of species composition and quantity under the vessel is already being used on the research vessels, but could also be applied on pelagic trawlers to reduce unwanted bycatch of mixed schools of fish.

In this way, WUR is contributing to optimised selective catches, supporting fishermen in modifying fishing practices to primarily catch desired fish species and sizes.