Waterdance beam trawler Margaret of Ladram, skippered by Adam Cowan-Dickie, is trialling a Sumwing beam trawl to gather data on how this gear affects vessel fuel efficiency and catches compared to traditional gears.
Operating from Brixham and fishing primarily for Dover sole, monkfish and turbot, Margaret of Ladram’s Sumwing trials represent an important step in assessing how new fishing gear designs can be modified to suit the UK fishery.
‘Sumwing beam trawls were developed in Holland but have not yet been tested in the UK fleet but have potential here,’ explained Western Fish Producers Organisation manager Chloe North.
‘The gear needs to be modified to suit our style of fishing in the UK which uses lower towing speeds than some European fisheries. This trial will help determine if the gear could be adopted more widely, helping improve fuel efficiency across the fleet. This would in turn help reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.’
The Sumwing replaces the traditional heavy beam with an air-filled, aerofoil shaped wing to keep the gear open. Unlike traditional beam trawls the Sumwing trawl does not have runners at each end which drag along the seabed, relying instead on a single central skid and hydrodynamics to keep the net on the bottom while the Sumwing itself skims around 600mm off the seabed.
Sumwing trawls are generally at least 25% lighter than their traditional counterparts and cause significantly less drag as there is less contact between the gear and the seabed. In addition to improving fuel consumption the use of Sumwing beam trawls minimises disturbance of seabed sediments and habitats.
‘We are expecting to see at least a 10% drop in fuel consumption during the trial, but this could be as high as 15 to 20%,” Chloe North said.
‘At the moment fuel represents more than 22% of our vessel operating costs so this will be a significant saving. When combined with the potential of reducing environmental impact this is a really exciting piece of research.’