SN Tech’s CatchCam has been in use on US scalloper K.A.T.E. II while fishing on the Georges Bank scallop grounds, and the hours of resulting footage from the gear have given skipper Billy Hullbig new insights into how the dredges perform and ways to minimise by-catch.
‘We’ve been trying to reduce flatfish by-catch in our dredge and the camera has helped us see what is really going on,’ he said.
‘The underwater footage is allowing us to create better escape routes for the flatfish in the scallop gear and, we’re already seeing positive results.’
The CatchCam has been used on K.A.T.E. II’s gear for more than 500 tows since August 2022 with the aim of addressing by-catch problems in the scallop fishery.
Initially the intention was to check the effectiveness of underwater – but the CatchCam’s results shifted the focus of the project in other directions as the underwater footage gave Billy Hullbig and his crew a clearer understanding of the gear’s operation and ideas for providing escape mechanisms for flatfish.
They came up with a square mesh top panel for the dredge, providing the fish with an escape route, and without losing catches of the scallop target species.
‘I was sceptical at first, but the CatchCam proved to be very versatile and durable logging over 2500 videos. With some simple ingenuity we were able to mount it all over the dredge and its gear,’ Billy Hullbig explained.
A tailor-made attachment welded to the dredge was used to mount the camera, and this was added to with a home-made setup that allowed the camera to be fixed inside and outside the dredge, providing coverage of critical areas of the fishing gear.
‘Without the footage, we would be theorising. But now we can see things for ourselves and can move forward much quicker than we have been able in the past,’ he said, commenting that the camera has opened up new possibilities for developing efficient strategies to reduce by-catch.
The outcomes has been that fishermen are provided with clearer understanding of the way their gear works, which facilitates quick fixes – while also ensuring that they stay within the regulations.
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