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Smart Trawling prototype to protect the seabed

Smart Trawling prototype to protect the seabed

Prototype technology unveiled by Sealord is being developed to provide skippers with a real-time view of the ocean floor and equipment while fishing, resulting in smart trawling and a reduction in the impacts of fishing on the seabed.

With deep sea fishing that occurs in depths of over 200 metres, fishermen have never before been able to observe the fish, and operated in the dark with guess work as to how they behave when they encounter fishing gear.

“It will be like driving at night with headlights and full visuals at depths of up to 1000m for the first time, versus navigating only on instruments,” explained Sealord Resource Manager, Graham Patchell.

“This is the first step in technology to be more accurate with trawls and work towards having a lighter footprint on the marine environment with less coral and sponges caught in nets. Rather than waiting to see what comes up in the trawl, we will see it in real time and be able to take action.”

The equipment is the trawl mounted acoustic and optical system (AOS) further developed to provide real-time data and visuals through an armoured fibre optic cable, deployed from a separate winch but computer linked to the main trawl system.

Sealord has developed this technology over the past five years in partnership with the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). The partnership is testing the new high definition camera and equipment in a world first trial which sets sail from Nelson this weekend.

Fibre optic cabling is well known for better performance, speed of data transfer and ability to carry larger amounts of visual data. This, along with the powerful lighting equipment will provide Sealords skippers a real-time view of the trawl gear and the ocean floor and enable them to target fish and move away from underwater features.

The new equipment has been installed on FV Thomas Harrison over the past two weeks and will be used during orange roughy biomass surveys in two fishing areas off the West Coast of the North Island.

By being able to observe the fish in their natural habitats the company will also get a far greater understanding of how fish behave and the equipment will provide the most efficient and accurate tool for stock assessment. Accurate targeting of species also means the ability to catch quota in a way that saves valuable time and fuel.

According to Sealords General Manager Fishing, Doug Paulin, its early days but the development is part of the companys ongoing commitment to developing the best science and innovation to deliver the worlds most sustainable fish.

“Sealords investment in research and technology has already resulted in better knowledge about the orange roughy fisheries and three of them have now entered Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainability certification.

“Our commitment to sustainability goes beyond healthy fish stocks and we are investing in an ecosystem approach to make sure we take as much care with the marine environment as we do with the fisheries,” said Paulin.

Sealord and CSIROs Smart Trawling technology follows an innovative project to develop a multi-frequencyAcoustic Optical System (AOS) – deep sea technology that allows scientists to use acoustics (sound) at different frequencies, and optics (visuals) to better understand fish and the marine environment.

This equipment has provided some never before seen footage of orange roughy and sharks at depths of more than 1000m and better, more accurate information about the species.


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