The “trawl game”: smart fishing nets could save millions of sea creatures


To reduce the number of marine species caught unintentionally in fishing nets, the French Oceanographic Institute Ifremer is testing smart trawls. It is hoped that these trawls will be able to sort the fish in the water, before the fishing gear is put on board, which will reduce unnecessary deaths.

Trawling is a widely used fishing method that involves towing a huge net behind a fishing boat. Although all types of trawling are harmful to the environment, the worst method is called bottom trawling.

In this case, a large, heavy net – often the size of a few football pitches – is dragged along the seabed, capturing everything he encounters. Because of this, a large number of marine species eventually die, even if they are not the intended target.

Each year, 20 million tonnes of fish – about a quarter of the world’s marine catches – are discarded at sea or brought back to quayside where they are not exploited, according to the report. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The trawl game

With other partners, including the University of South Brittany (UBS), the Morbihan Fisheries Committee and the Marport company, specializing in high-tech sensors, Ifremer is piloting a project called Trawl set. The name is a reference to the hit TV series “Games of Thrones” and also an acronym for Giving Artificial, Monitoring intelligence to Fishing Trawls.

As part of the project, the team applied the latest technological solutions, such as AI, to fishing gear. Using a network of sensors and cameras, they use computer vision to detect and identify species that enter fishing nets in real time.

This way, anglers can select the specific species they want, their size and abundance before bringing the net back to the boat.

“I’m not interested in having the fish on the deck and sorting it once it’s dead, I prefer to sort it on the bottom”, explains Eric Guygniec, boss of the fishing company Apak and partner of the project.

With such a device “we know at all times what is going on in the net, the size of the fish and the species, and if the species does not interest us we can open a trap”.

However, on the docks, some sailors are worried about the cost of such a device.

“Can we buy a trawl like this stuffed with technology?” »Asks a fisherman from Lorient who did not wish to give his name.

He says he recently put his boat up for sale because the constraints of his profession are already “too heavy”.

Watch the video to learn more about this project.


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