Finalist, Seafood Champion Awards Innovation Category
This completely new approach does away with traditional trawl nets and, instead, harvests fish so they are contained and swimming comfortably underwater inside a large flexible PVC liner where they can be sorted for the correct size and species before being brought on-board the fishing vessel.
The break-through design of the harvesting system allows fishing vessels to target specific species and fish size and greatly increases protection for small fish that can swim free through ‘escape portals’ and non-target fish (by-catch), which are released unharmed. Once on the deck, the fish are still swimming inside the liner, in perfect condition, meaning fresher, more sustainable fish for consumers and higher value products for fishing companies using the technology.
The system has been shown to be successful in allowing large quantities of fish to be captured in perfect condition, with survivability on a par with hook and line fisheries.
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Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) has been formed to commercialise a unique new system of harvesting wild fish that is designed to be used on-board existing trawl type vessels. The partnership is made up from three NZ co-investor fishing companies (Aotearoa Fisheries, Sealord and Sanford) as the industry partner to a Primary Growth Partnership scheme. This PGP scheme is administered by the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries. The programme has taken a series of concepts that first developed by scientists at Plant & Food Research and progressively scaled these up for use in the NZ commercial fishing sector. These concepts have been developed into a range of different sized modular harvest systems (MHS) for different sized fishing vessels and target species. The commercial testing at-sea now includes a range of fishing vessels from small sized in-shore vessels up to off-shore factory trawlers 64 mtrs in length. The PSH programme has shown the potential for significant gains to be achieved in the sustainability performance during wild fish harvesting. The primary objective being to substantially reduce the mortality rates in unintended catch. This includes juvenile (or undersized) target species and by-catch species. The sustainability performance is being measured in terms of both survivability ( survival rates for juvenile fish returned to sea ) and selectivity ( avoiding the catch of by-catch species and juvenile fish). The initial results of the survivability performance have been released and demonstrate significant gains in the survival rates of juvenile snapper (as an exemplar species) compared to traditional trawl gear. The results will be used to evaluate the success of the new designs and for possible changes to the regulatory environment that is currently structured for mesh based trawl systems. The new technology has also opened up new opportunities for the marketing of very high quality seafood outcomes and this has lead to further work into developing new on-board fish handling systems to preserve and maintain this fish quality. The encouraging results during the commercial testing of the new MHS designs have led to optimism about the commercialisation prospects of the PSH systems in wider industry application. PSH was recognised for its innovative success at the 2014 NZ Innovation Awards winning both the”‘sustainability” and “supreme” awards.
What local and/or international partners does PSH work with?
PSH works with three NZ based co-investor fishing companies who are partners in the development programme being Aotearoa Fisheries, Sealord and Sanford. The PSH programme is part of the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) scheme which is administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The technical servicing for the programme is being provided by the Plant & Food Research (PFR) seafood unit based in Nelson, NZ.
How well does PSH and its work demonstrate the qualities of the category?
The technology being developed by PSH represents the very best standards in “innovation” as an process. The programme started with an invention or concept and has worked collaboratively to take this through to a commercial outcome. The common goal of a better and more sustainable method of harvesting wild fish has overcome the challenges of finding investors, developing a collaborative team, developing, building and testing range of unique and radical prototype designs and then proving the results so that industry regulations can be changed to fit the new technology. The results of this programme will affect the entire NZ seafood sector.
In what ways has PSH positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?
PSH has already demonstrated that the survival rates of non-intended catch and overall quality of wild fish being harvested by trawl type vessels can be significantly improved over existing trawl designs. The potential gains in fish condition observed at the stern of the fishing has changed the perception of the crews and will lead to new designs in fishing vessels to better capture these gains during the handling and sorting operations. The programme has shown that sustainability gains can be made in a way that complements good business outcomes for the vessel operators and fishermen.
In what way could PSH’s story inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?
PSH represents a story where competing business interests can work together to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for their wider industry. The collaboration between industry, government and science is very strong for this programme and was established very early in the planning stages for the partnership. The enduring strength of this partnership to work through a number of challenges along the way has shown that identifying a good cause can provide a very strong binding influence for similar projects in the future.
How would PSH’s work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?
The PSH programme is specifically modelled on the Primary Growth Partnership structure. This is administered by the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries. However the ability of a good idea to pull people and organisations into a collaborative effort is what PSH would demonstrate to any group looking to replicate this type of programme.
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