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Commercial Fishing Marine Science



CRISP, the major Norwegian fisheries project, is nearing its end. In close collaboration with industrial partners, scientists at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and Nofima have developed technology and solutions for more responsible fisheries.

The new technologies developed include acoustic systems to determine fish size, species and quantity prior to catch, systems to monitor catches in purse seines and trawl nets, and an on-board tank for live storage of the catch. The technologies have been developed to enable gentler, more environmentally-friendly fishing.

“Norwegian fishing vessels catch 2.4 million tonnes of fish each year. We have an obligation to manage this natural resource responsibly and sustainably. New technical solutions and extensive new knowledge mean sustainable fishing is now possible,” says research director Heidi Nilsen.

Nofima has investigated the effects of the new technologies on the quality of the fish. Scientists compared traditionally caught fish with fish caught using the new systems and found that top quality is possible with trawling if the fish are handled properly.

A new mechanism on the trawl net releases some of the catch into a second, finer-meshed net that provides better conditions for the fish in the trawl, thereby improving quality.

Studies using a specially designed trawl simulator also showed that fish that could recuperate for some hours before slaughter had whiter fillets than stressed fish, which a more reddish filet colour.

In addition, Nofima found that fish that are stored alive in water filled tanks on board for a period after catch have better quality fillets than fish caught and stored in the traditional way.

Introducing these new technologies will require investments from the industry. Nofima has therefore also assessed the pros and cons of the new solutions. Can these technologies add value, save energy and reduce costs for the companies?

The short answer is yes, but with certain provisos. For example, better fish finder equipment means vessels do not need to travel so far to find fish, hence saving fuel and reducing emissions. Structuring (more quotas per vessel) has already resulted in a significant drop in overall fuel consumption in the vessel groups. However, the main potential for value adding is in improving quality. Poor quality on landing is generally due to the way the fish are handled during and after catch. The strain in the catch operation leads to overcrowding and stress of the fish. Calculations for the mackerel and herring catch show that some NOK 50 million is lost per year due to impaired quality. The way the fish are caught and handled impacts the following value chain and the potential for adding value in post-harvest operations. A premium quality fish can be used in all types of products, and the by-products can be used profitably, whereas a bloodshot, damaged fish has lower value and can be used in far fewer product lines.

Several fishing companies have contacted Nofima for advice on how the knowledge from CRISP can be applied on board future trawl vessels. The scientists provide documentation, analyses, and advice, but other factors determine the extent to which the knowledge and technology may be implemented.

“Investments to achieve low environmental impact catch, better quality and more ethical fishing must also result in increased profitability. When the institutional framework favour catch volume over catch quality, and when the market does not reward the quality efforts, companies struggle to justify the investment,” explains research director Bent Dreyer.

The government must therefore adjust institutional framework to prevent inferior quality, promote ethical methods and provide financial incentives for implementing quality friendly innovations.