Report of the ICES-FAO Working Group on Fishing Technology and Fish Behaviour (WGFTFB)
The Working Group on Fishing Technology and Fish Behaviour (WGFTFB) is jointly supported be ICES and FAO and provides an international forum for scientists and technologists to present and discuss research on commercial and resource survey fishing gear and operations, and effect of fishing on re-source and environment. This year’s meeting was hosted by DTU Aqua in Hirtshals, Denmark between the 4th and 8th of June 2018. This was one of the largest meetings the WGFTFB has held. One hundred and one participants (& 20 observers) from 22 countries attended the meeting, with the majority from ICES Member Countries, but also many others from non-ICES countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Turkey and New Zealand.
The science shared at the meeting included 45 presentations and 20 posters, describing a broad range of research topics. These included developing more environmentally responsible fishing methods and assessing the impact of fishing gears on the ecosystem, for example, biodegradable fishing nets that reduce marine litter and ghost fishing. There were many projects which tested innovative selective fishing gears in collaboration with the fishing industry. A lot of these have been catalysed by the implementation of the EU Landing Obligation and the incentives in reducing unwanted catches. These practical trials were supported by initiatives to communicate selective gear options to the fishing industry and to promote industry-led testing of selective gear. Also linked to the Landing Obligation, the effect of fishing gear design and fishing operation on the survival of discarded animals was described as under the new policy, species that demonstrate high discard survival rates can be exempted from the discard ban.
In addition, there were four dedicated topic groups focusing on: artificial light for bycatch mitigation; contact probability of selective devices; factsheets on fishing gear selectivity; and evaluation of trawl groundgear. Using artificial lights to modify catches is currently receiving a lot of attention and is showing great potential as a tool to improve species selectivity. It was shown that using lights in trawls and on fish pots can substantially modify the behaviour and catches of fish and other taxa. This work remains fundamental, but it has shown that different species react differently to light and this reaction can vary between night and day. In addition, light with different characteristics has been demonstrated to induce different fish reactions. Another Topic Group is working on developing a series of factsheets on fishing gear selectivity and catch comparison trials. As the ICES – FAO WGFTFB has a global membership and perspective, it is ideally positioned to both gather and disseminate this type of information. It also has technological expertise to ensure that the factsheets address bycatch and discard issues that face the fishing industry. The third Topic Group is working on evaluating trawl groundgear for efficiency, bycatch, and impact on the seabed. The last group is focusing on contact probability of selective devices and address key factors influencing the effectiveness of selectivity devices. The contact probability Topic Group ends this year and its outcome is included in this year's full report. For next year's meeting, a new Topic Group on passive fishing gears will be established to examine many urgent issues such as unwanted bycatch, and to identify potential synergies in developing new approaches to promote sustainability of passive gears.
Next year's meeting, which will be sponsored and led by FAO and is proposed to be held in Shanghai (China), will be focusing on responsible fishing technology for a healthy ecosystem and clean environment with a mini-symposium addressing environmental issues related to fishing gears and their operations.
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