Last week the APPG on Fisheries and over 100 attendees heard innovators from across the UK speak about how data and technology are helping to improve the UK fisheries sector.
Innovators from the worlds of science, tech, and the fishing industry itself have been working together to make fishing more resilient, safer, more transparent, and more environmentally friendly. The APPG’s latest event showcased some of the most effective and promising efforts from the UK.
Michael MacCorquodale from novel online sales platform Bullfish Market, who spoke first, sees opportunities for improving the industry within the recent disruption.
‘Despite the problems we have faced during the past year, Brexit and Covid-19 could arguably be the greatest opportunity for innovation,’ he said.
‘It has allowed us to go online with platforms such as Bullfish Market, host events like this one and educate each other on the opportunities for our industry to grow.’
Matthew Frow, who heads Seafish’s Kingfisher service, said that a considerable challenge facing innovation in the fishing industry is the adoption of technology by the smaller, less well financed vessels.
‘In particular, for technology relating to fishing safety, cost should never be an issue,” he said.
Three more speakers all showcased technologies that aid fishing selectivity and help fishermen avoid unwanted bycatch. Tom Rossiter spoke of SafetyNet Technologies Ltd’s Pisces tool that uses light to deter by-catch species, but also mentioned the need for stability in the sector.
‘Ongoing uncertainty is not a friend of innovators, nor the fishing industry that needs to feel secure in order to invest in new innovations and technology,’ he said.
Professor Paul Fernandes, spoke of how the Smartrawl project uses underwater cameras and artificial intelligence to fish selectively, and Dr Robert Enever of Fishtek Marine Ltd said the uptake of pingers to deter cetaceans required constructive collaboration between fishermen, policymakers and technologists.
The final two speakers both emphasised the need for inter-sector collaboration to maximise fishing efficiency and minimise its impact on the marine environment. Dr Mark James spoke of the recently concluded Scottish Inshore Fisheries Integrated Data System (SIFIDS) programme, which collected data with the collaboration of the inshore fleet to support co-management and stock assessment.
David Stevens, skipper and chair of Fishing into the Future, rounded off the presentations by highlighting how mutual understanding and transparency is crucial.
‘The key to unlocking great opportunities in innovation is through creating the right policy approaches, achieved by working collaboratively,’ he said.
The event was recorded and is available on the APPG website, along with a summary of the panelists’ answers to questions from attendees.