Innovations in Fishing Gear Technology

Fishery scientists and fishermen are continuously innovating their fishing gear to increase catch rates, reduce fish mortality rates, address safety concerns like line entanglements and reduce bycatch of endangered bluefin tuna (Rilling et al. 2014). Over recent years, numerous fishing hooks, nets and other gear designed to reduce harm to marine life has emerged, such as one type of hook which significantly decreased bycatch of endangered bluefin tuna (Rilling et al. 2014). Furthermore, innovations exist which make handling and dehooking fish easier (such as gloves that help anglers grasp slippery slimy fish), as well as devices designed specifically to recover lost gear (e.g. descending devices for tidal waters which avoid barotrauma in released reef fish).

Innovations have altered not only stock assessments and management (through their impact on catch rates over time), but also gear usage, vessel power usage and size sizing to accommodate these gears. Furthermore, their introduction into an industry requires careful management and regulation.

As part of a collaboration between NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and southern New England lobster and Jonah crab fishermen, 30 vessels participated in testing different designs of on-demand gear activated by acoustic signals for retrieval in federally protected waters in Massachusetts and Canada in order to reduce whale entanglements (NFWF 2018). This system is intended to provide long-term solutions that prevent vertical lines–the primary cause of right whale entanglement in North America–from entering federally protected waters without disrupting lobster fisheries themselves.

Although results of this test are preliminary, early indications indicate that on-demand gear could provide an effective solution to whale entanglements while maintaining fishing opportunities in these important U.S. and Canadian fisheries. Furthermore, Maine law passed in 2017 provides an innovative funding solution to further reduce whale entanglement without jeopardizing Maine’s lucrative lobster industry: A multimillion-dollar fund would pay stipends to fishermen who create pop-up gears to retrieve traps.

However, some fisheries researchers remain wary about the potential advantages of fishing gear innovation. They warn that such new technology may increase angling satisfaction among some groups while at the same time increasing it for others who fish other species or areas – thus increasing inequality between fishing enthusiasts. Experimental research has demonstrated that only the most skilled and dedicated anglers are capable of attaining higher catch rates (Monk and Arlinghaus 2018). Gear innovations that give these high-achieving anglers an increase in catches may actually lessen satisfaction among other anglers, since people perceive perceived unfairness by direct comparison with others. Still, advancement of fishing gear technology will likely benefit not only this segment of anglers, but the entire fishing industry and marine environment as well. Taken from a post at National Fisheries Institute blog.

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