The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) has secured advance funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and Marine Scotland for a project to develop and trial innovative fishing gear to reduce the amount of discards vessels will have to deal with when the discard ban is phased-in for demersal fisheries from 1 January 2016.
With the introduction of the discard ban, or landing obligation as it is known, rapidly looming, the timing of this new project is so critical that Marine Scotland has agreed to advance EMFF funds ahead of the launch of the fund later in the year.
The funding will facilitate a partnership involving the SFF, Marine Scotland, Seafish, Scottish Industry Discards Initiative, net-makers and fishermen.
The first phase of the project will run from now until the end of 2015 and intends to sea-trial new designs of nets with the results being disseminated throughout the fleet.
It is anticipated that a further phase of the project will be in place from January 2016 to continue developing gears through to 2019.
The project will employ a manager, Jennifer Mouat with whom any interested fisher can discuss ideas they might have for improving gear selectivity. In due course a meeting will be convened to bring together fishers and net-makers to explore ideas with nothing being discounted without proper consideration.
All ideas received will be benchmarked against the Seafish gear database and any other available information, and if agreed to be worth pursuing, may be funded to produce the net and conduct sea trials with scientific observers to allow data to provide evidence of selectivity.
The project will obtain derogations for trialling innovative gear which might not comply with current regulations or established gear categories.
The project will try to ensure that the skipper who comes forward with an idea will be the skipper who trials it. At the end of the project all the information on the gear and data obtained will be available for use throughout the fleet.
SFF Chief Executive Bertie Armstrong said: “If selective fishing gear is to play a part in meeting the challenges of the upcoming discard ban, innovation and practical input from the users is simply a must.
"This project is designed to gather the best ideas and turn them into optimised nets – teamwork will be everything.”
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment said: “I commend the industry for their work on such an important issue and for working with the Scottish Government and scientists to develop improvements, including trials, in gear selectivity ahead of the implementation of the landing obligation in January 2016.
"This funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Scottish Government will help fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing, create jobs and support coastal communities."