planet e.: Saving the Catch

Full nets, empty oceans. Overfishing is a problem the world has been struggling with for many years. Environmental activists say the oceans will soon be plundered.. Scientist are alarmed. Worldwide, nearly 80 million tons of fish are taken from the oceans – four times as much as 50 years ago.

For many years scientists have called for changes to the fishing industry. As an alternative to fishing, trawling can be environmentally sustainable. There are a small number of fisheries that have already found a more environmentally friendly way of operating.

In European waters by law the “by-catch,“ or fish unintentionally caught in the net while trying to catch other fish,– must be thrown overboard. Unfortunately 90% of the unwanted fish  does not survive the procedure.

“It’s an absurd waste of resources“, says Daniel Stepputtis, biologist at the Thünen-Institut for Baltic Fishery in Rostock. His opinion: “by-catch“ should not be pulled on-board in the first place. Sounds logical – and might be possible in ther near future. Stepputtis and his colleague Bernd Mieske are developing intelligent nets. Their new invention: the Topless-Trawl would avoid “by-catch“ by enabling one species of fish to escape while the other species – which the fishermen are actually trying to catch – stays in the net. To create their invention, the scientists research the behaviour of fish in the water to determine how a fish flees when the danger of a net is coming towards it.

Inventions such as the Topless-Trawl come at a crucial time for the fishing industry, because the European Union has recently decided to change the rules of trawling. In the future “by-catch“ must be reduced drastically. No one knows exactly how that will be achieved, but maybe the scientists in Rostock will soon have a solution.

In the computer-animation the Topless-Trawl stands perfectly in the water, but scientists won’t know if it functions until it is actually tested on the open sea. They let a regular trawl net compete against the Topless-Trawl and find out if their invention will be the future of fishing.

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