Demersal trawl fisheries have detrimental effects on the environment at both the regional and global scale. Regionally, demersal trawl gear cause habitat destruction, increased benthic mortality, and sediment resuspension, which can all result in reduced biological sustainability, resilience, and productivity of a fishery; globally, demersal trawling is a significant contributor of greenhouse gases, with recent estimations being about 1000 million tonnes CO2 per annum which is equivalent to the emissions from the aviation industry. These gases are released when dormant, carbon-rich sediments are disturbed by the demersal trawling activity, with additional emissions being released from the fuel consumed when dragging these gears over the seabed.
The contact forces from fishing gear being towed over the seabed will be incorporated into small-scale modelling to establish criteria to be used when developing new towed fishing gear. Reduced impact on the seabed coupled with fuel-efficient gear will contribute to a more sustainable production and add value to the Blue Bioeconomy Value Chain.
The goal of RightFish is to reduce the environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions in commercial fisheries, and we will reach this goal by improving and further develop the design of towed fishing gear. The work is divided into 8 work packages, each addressing an important part of the project:
WP1 will review design modifications to fishing gears that reduce fuel consumption, minimise seabed contact, and decrease drag. WP2 will investigate and establish scale modelling rules for demersal trawls, balancing the gravitational, hydrodynamic drag, and contact forces, while WP3 will investigate the pressure and drag forces acting on bottom contacting gear components. WP4 and WP5 will, in two case studies, design and develop towed demersal fishing gears that reduce fuel consumption and minimise seabed contact and gear drag while maintaining catch rates of the target species. The gear designs will be informed by the review of WP1 and the design options of WP3, and will be determined by the methods developed in WP2. We will design a single-trawl for a fishery on sandy sediment (typical for the whitefish fisheries) and a twin-trawl for a fishery on muddy sediment (typical of Nephrops fisheries). WP6 and WP7 will carry out an environmental and economic evaluation of the low impact gears developed in the case studies of WP4 and WP5, and WP8 will manage the project and disseminate the results to the fishing industry, fisheries managers, policymakers and other stakeholders.
DTU Aqua will lead WP3, WP5, and WP8, SINTEF Ocean will lead WP2 and WP6, and CNR will lead WP1, WP4, and WP7.
The goal is to develop gears that are more fuel-efficient, disturb fewer carbon-rich sediments, and penetrates less into the seabed to minimise carbon emissions and habitat destruction, as well as ensuring that marine resources are managed and harvested in a sustainable way that maintains ecosystem integrity and resilience and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Small-scale models will be tested and assessed in SINTEF Ocean’s flume tank in Hirtshals, focussing on the forces inflicted onto the sea floor. The results from these tests will be used in field testing in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, representing typical European demersal fisheries. New gear designs will be more energy efficient and resuspend less CO2 by not penetrating as far into the seabed, which will also lead to lower levels of habitat destruction, lower emissions of greenhouse gasses, and more sustainable fisheries. Additionally, the environmental and economic benefits that will be achieved when using gear with less sea floor impact will be demonstrated, such as lower fuel costs and more trust from the consumers through transparent, traceable, and certifiable standards and processes.
Overall, the project will allow fishing gear to be assessed and quantified objectively, thereby allowing the development of design standards and processes that are well-defined, transparent, and traceable and which can be used to establish consumer trust and increase marketing opportunities. This is likely to lead to increased fishing opportunities, improved market access, and higher prices, contributing to sustainable production in the Blue Bioeconomy and allowing the development of transparent, certifiable, and traceable.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
RightFish will advance the TRL of the scale modelling process/methodology and low impact, environmentally friendly towed gears. The TRL of the scale modelling criteria will be taken from TRL2 to TRL6, i.e. from being a formulated concept as set out in the project proposal to being a process to design and develop demersal towed gears and demonstrated in the Flume tank.
The TRL of the low impact towed gear will be taken from TRL3 to TRL7. It will, in two case studies, design and develop towed demersal fishing gears that reduce fuel consumption, minimise seabed contact and gear drag, while maintaining catch rates of the target species. It will comprise a range of design options for various gear subcomponents that are at TRL3-TRL5 and take the resultant gear (combining all these gear components) to TRL7, where it will have been tested and demonstrated in an operational environment at sea.