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The Obvious Breakthrough

new-breakthroughMany of the breakthroughs we get with modern technology take thinking in a new reality, like the lightbulb.  But many are the results of common sense, but obvious only after the fact. Like wheels on luggage.  And don’t we all wish we’d invented that?

Such a breakthrough has just happened in the land of practical solutions, New Zealand.

A new way to catch fish alive and unharmed was secretly developed in Nelson and unveiled only yesterday.  It will revolutionise the fishing industry (given time) to the benefit of the marine biodiversity and fishing stocks around the world.

Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) was suggested by Nelson Plant and Food Research science group leader Alistair Jerrett to a sceptical fishing industry several years ago. So often the obvious meets with resistance just because it hasn’t been done before. But now it’s a fact with an investment of $52 million by three of New Zealand’s biggest seafood companies and the Government.

The system has been successfully trialled in commercial volumes, and has resulted in catches as large as they were with the older nets.  It allows small fish to escape unharmed from a new tunnel-like net end made of PVC. Bigger fish are brought on board trawlers alive and in top condition. They can then be sorted, with bycatch species (fish we don’t eat) released.

It can also bring fish up alive from 200 metres. Catches from deeper water, unable to survive the ascent, can be landed in much better condition than the present method, which squeezes them into a compact mass and which also strains them out of the water.

This “cod end” now has a worldwide patent.  After 150 years of little change in the nets of the fishing industry this opens up new ways to protect fish stocks while ensuring a premium-quality catch.  It’s a win for both industry and the environment, as well as the common sense thinking that brought it to us.