‘Hauling Up Solutions’ – Scottish creel fishermen attend successful bycatch and entanglement workshop in London

Written by Ellie MacLennan, SEA project co-ordinator.

Last week myself and five creel fishermen from Scotland were invited to attend ‘Hauling up Solutions’, a two-day cetacean bycatch and entanglement workshop hosted by Cefas and Defra at the Zoological Society of London. Seven net fishermen from Cornwall, as well as a host of scientists and researchers, government representatives and tech developers (some of whom previously worked as fishermen) were also in attendance. The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Share perspectives and experience of bycatch and entanglement monitoring and mitigation;
  2. Explore practical options to better monitor and mitigate cetacean bycatch and entanglement around the UK, including applying best-practice, modifying solutions used in other sectors/for other species, and designing and innovating entirely new solutions;
  3. Build relationships within different stakeholder groups and map out means of continued collaboration to ensure all options explored are practical, proportional, affordable and effective;
  4. Provide a safe space for open and honest discussions, and find common ground on joint objectives and future priorities; and
  5. Develop strong clear recommendations on future research to monitor and reduce cetacean bycatch and entanglement in fishing gear in the UK, including practical and tangible options that can be trialled in partnership with the fishing industry, fishermen and other partners.

   

The workshop hosted by Cefas and Defra included a huge array of talks, presentations, practical demonstrations and break-out discussion groups, all focussed on working together to find solutions to marine animal bycatch and entanglement in UK waters.

 

Presentations from the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation featured on day one, and covered topics including the importance of industry and stakeholder-led research and engagement. Methods of monitoring by-catch and entanglement using satellites, autonomous underwater vehicles, hydrophones, apps and other electronic methods were also discussed at length, as were possible mitigation measures using light, sounds, gear modifications and electric barriers. Animal biology and behaviours in relation to bycatch and entanglement, and work in challenging traditional fishing conventions were also hot topics. These in turn inspired some very meaningful and enlightening debates especially on day two, when attendees were split into their respective groups (fishers, researchers, policy makers etc.) to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as they perceived them, associated with each of the proposed bycatch and entanglement monitoring and mitigation options.

Bally Philp of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF), a partner in the SEA project, highlights the industry’s concern over and willingness to work towards solutions to marine animal entanglement. I also presented on the work of SEA and the invaluable input we’ve received to this work so far from the Scottish creel fishing industry. We were also lucky to hear from Tim Werner from the New England Aquarium in Boston, USA.  Tim is a marine zoologist, fisheries scientist and conservation biologist whose research currently focusses on identifying bycatch solutions for marine wildlife that also support the livelihoods of fishermen and coastal communities. He spent a lot of time with the fishermen in attendance, sharing his experiences and advice in entanglement mitigation including what has and hasn’t worked in the USA, and what measures might be applicable in the UK.

 

The event was summed up by one Scottish fisherman who commented that “We had two days of workshops, presentations and scientists from all over the world keen to engage with fishermen to find solutions to things like entanglements in nets and ropes. We learned loads, I think they did too, we even attended a by-caught porpoise necropsy…..It was a brilliant trip and experience. Some species are prone to get entangled in nets, others in ropes. There are a few species in the world that are critically endangered and there is some real urgency to find solutions and mitigations. Plenty work to be done, but the good news is that there is plenty that can be done…and we may even have come up with some good ideas!”

Below are some just some of the tweets about the workshop which highlight some of the challenges and goals in marine animal bycatch and entanglement monitoring and mitigation. Follow the hashtag #HaulingUpSolutions to read more.

If you are involved in the Scottish creel fishing industry would like to learn more about the Scottish Entanglement Alliance and/or get involved in this work, please contact me (Ellie) at entanglement@sac.co.uk or call 01463 246048. Any information you share will be treated positively, sensitively and confidentially.

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