2 Oct 2013

Commercial fishing to be revolutionised

6:27 am on 2 October 2013

A revolutionary approach to commercial fishing is on track with the first trials of new technology which will replace trawler nets, reduce wastage and help to conserve fish stocks.

The Precision Seafood Harvesting project is a $52 million research partnership between three New Zealand fishing companies and scientists, supported by the Government's primary growth partnership fund.

It was launched 18 months ago and Sanford managing director Eric Barratt unveiled the first commercial trial results at a seafood industry conference in Auckland on Tuesday.

"This new technology harvests fish in live form and allows us to be selective about the fish we catch and the size we catch and the species we catch," said Mr Barratt, who is also the chair of Seafood New Zealand.

"When fish come onboard the boat, they come like in a tank or an aquarium ... so it brings fish and water together, so the fish never stop swimming.

"So it introduces a whole new way of catching fish, a whole new way in which we're going to handle the fish and whole new opportunities to market the fish."

The technology was unique and set New Zealand apart from the rest of the world.

The precision seafood harvesting project still had more than four years to run but Mr Barratt said the initial trials showed the new technology was practical and viable. As well, he believed the environmental benefits could outweigh the commercial gains.

"We originally started the project to add value to the catch but during the process we found that this technology will actually be a greater financial benefit to the environment."

That meant more fish in the water and faster productivity, which was better for everybody, he said.