Young’s Seafood Limited, the UK’s number one chilled and frozen fish business, is today announcing the results of innovative research into sustainable fishing technology. Backed by Young’s Seafood, Project TrawlLight was a scoping study compiled by the Government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science using technology created by SafetyNet Technologies.

The research found that artificial light can be used, in conjunction with nets, to alter the selectivity of fishing trawls, ensuring that fishermen only catch the fish they want. The trials suggest that the technology radically reduces the number of by-catch caught. The technology could help to ensure that fewer fish are wasted and could have the potential to save fishers time and money by reducing the trips to sea they need to make to catch fish they can land and sell.

The SafetyNet technology won the James Dyson Award, founded by entrepreneur and inventor James Dyson, and involves illuminating mesh escape panels that guide smaller fish, which fishermen don’t want, out of the nets.

Young’s Seafood’s Marine Biologist and Head of CSR, David Parker, played a hands on role in the research. Commenting on the research, David Parker said: “The results of this research are very encouraging and we now hope that the industry, Government and NGOs will come together to support further trials. Having been out on trawler during the research and having seen the technology in action, I believe this innovation could have a positive on the industry and the future of fishing.”

Stuart Caborn, Chief Supply Chain & Procurement Officer, at Young’s Seafood added: “We believe this technology could present a potential step-change in the sustainability of fishing, helping fishermen, our seas and our planet. As the UK’s number one seafood business, we take our responsibilities to the planet very seriously and we want to inspire people to enjoy fish now and for generations to come. This project has been a great example of our Fish for Life programme on responsible sourcing and sustainable innovation in action.”

Commenting on the research, Dan Watson of SafetyNet, said: “The feedback from the first round of trials was brilliant. We’ve learnt all sorts of things about usability that we can now design into the next round. We’ve got a second prototype coming out soon which has taken a lot of that into account, so we’re really excited to see it. The relationship with Young’s Seafood has been great. Not only having a partner who has offered us the resources to try this out and the time to develop it, but also the assistance of people like David Parker who have these amazing skills that they can bring to the whole collaboration. The fact that they really want this to work has been phenomenal. We’re really glad to be part of it.”

Samantha Elliott, Project Manager at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, said: “Using Artificial Light to improve the selectivity of Trawls showed great potential. Although the results of the scoping study yielded limited data, there was a significant reduction in the number of fish below minimum reference size caught by the experimental trawl compared to the control. Further investigation of this concept would be needed to fully explore the potential benefits of using artificial lights to improve gear selectivity.”

This was an initial scoping study, with a limited scope, but the research concludes that there is sufficient information from this study to warrant further investigation in this technology. The research states: “This type of innovative technology could assist vessel operators to avoid catches of unwanted fish in the context of the landing obligation. There could be a potential economic advantage; fishers would maximise their catch quota and reduce the amount of low value fish landed for the non-human consumption market.”