PSH Fisheries programme aims to protect New Zealand fish stocks and fishing industry
Partnership creates technology that could define the future of New Zealand fisheries
Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) is the commercialisation phase of nearly 10 years of New Zealand research. Three major New Zealand fishing companies - Aotearoa Fisheries, Sanford and Sealord - are investing $24 million between them into the programme with the other half of the funding coming from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), which is matching the industry investment under a Primary Growth Partnership.
The technology has been hailed as the future of sustainable commercial fishing. Driven by the desire within industry to increase the survivability of unintended catch (juvenile fish and by-catch species), and take better care of the fish being caught, PSH does away with traditional trawl nets to allow fish to be landed on boats alive and in perfect condition, while safely releasing undersized fish. The Modular Harvest System (MHS) technology, that has been designed and tested as part of the PSH programme, represents Stage One of a three-stage development. The programme will lead to changes in vessel designs and layouts, how fish are handled and how they are taken into the market place. It’s about the future of our seas; helping to ensure our oceans are full of life.
A “new way to fish”, this potential replacement for traditional trawl nets is essentially a large, flexible PVC liner with specifically sized holes along its length that allow undersized fish to escape before they are even brought on board a fishing vessel.
Benchmarks of success on the road to more sustainable fishing
In the first stage, potential survivability rates of the fish being caught were even better than expected. The second stage will be to develop and commercialise new on-board fish handling technologies that will maintain these survival rates through the sorting and grading of commercial catch quantities.
Added value to take to market
This technology means the industry can offer more great quality fish to consumers and there are new opportunities for higher end product. It all increases the value of the products on offer and in turn, the value of the industry. The story of how the fish is caught is increasingly important for consumers and this new method is a great New Zealand story, that will potentially change the way the world fishes.
PSH has already won multiple awards for innovation including the Supreme Award and the Innovation in Sustainability & Clean-Tech Award at the 2014 New Zealand Innovator Awards and two major categories at the 2014 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards. The technology has just been named a finalist in the global SeaWeb Seafood Champions Awards.
The next steps to greater fishing sustainability requires still more science and innovation
PSH is in the fourth year of a six-year commercialisation programme and according to Dave Woods from PSH, “there is plenty of science still to be done".
Specifically the focus will be on testing new configurations of the fishing technology – using it with different fish species (hoki in particular) and in a greater variety of conditions (deep water).
“PSH is set to be a game changer in the management of sustainable fisheries and growing the value of this important industry,” says Ben Dalton, Deputy Director-General Sector Partnerships & Programmes at MPI. “PSH has massive potential economic and environmental benefits.”