Improvement in Fishing Technology
(Short Term)

General Goals

General goals of the plan include decreasing the harmful effects of fishing technology on the environment and increasing the selectivity of fish caught both by species and size, to the purpose of drastically reducing bycatch. Improving technology and fishing equipment is really only a short term solution to global fisheries problems. Long term solutions will come from intelligent regulations and worldwide cooperation to use our resources wisely.

Technology Suggestions

Step 1:

Step 1 would include the use of methods that are more environmentally friendly, such as hand lining or trapping rather than bottom trawling, since trawls stir up sediment (turbidity is harmful to many fish species as well as bivalves), destroy fish habitat, and destroy plants and animals that live along the bottom, whereas hand lining and other more environmentally friendly methods do not contact the bottom and thus do not harm the nonliving environment and are very selective with little bycatch.

Hook and line, however, still has a small problem with bycatch. The hooks are baited but sometimes fish other than the desired catch will eat the bait. Fishermen sometimes kill the fish and throw them back in so they will not continue to eat their bait. As an alternative, we suggest keeping onboard the boat an aerated tank that the bycatch fish can be put into. At the end of the day when the fishermen are done with their catching, they can release the fish safely back into the ocean.

Also, rather than trawling or fishing for a set number of hours and pulling up the nets to see what and how much has been caught, putting sensors on nets that measure tension or width of the net or other factors can give fishermen an estimation of the amount of fish in the nets before they pull the nets up. This way, the quota allowance will not be exceeded resulting in all of the fish over the quota pound limit being thrown back dead into the ocean.

Putting escape vents in commercial nets would allow the escape of large sea mammals that become trapped inside. Step 1 would also require that nets are manufactured with a biodegradable release mechanism which is often as simple as a long slit in the nylon webbing which is then sealed with cotton thread that degrades away. Traps would also have this time release mechanism that would open and allow the fish inside to escape in the event that the trap is not picked up by the fishermen or blown away by a storm. This provision eliminates the self-perpetuating cycle of self-baiting "ghost traps."

Requiring that nets be manufactured with square mesh sections instead of diamond mesh would make net size regulations more effective because square mesh does not close when towed and thus small fish can get through the mesh. Examples of these bycatch reduction devices include nets with radial escape sections or square mesh windows that allow fish to escape shrimp trawls.

Step 2:

Step 2 would include:

Since step 2 is much more technologically advanced and likely to be more expensive, these measures would be implemented later when more research has been done and these technologies can be more cheaply and this wide spread manufactured.

Future Steps:

A future idea would be to implement GPS tags in nets and other fishing gear, which would emit a unique signal that can be tracked by an automated server. Ships would also have a unique GPS tag that can be matched together with their equipment; boats that don't pass inspection (i.e. use the right equipment in the right areas such as no trawling areas) would be red flagged by the automated system, which then eliminates the need for human operators and makes the enforcement aspect more efficient. This can also track ships that fish in no-take closed areas. In order to track the number of hours a ship's equipment is in the water, a speed coach propeller, or other mobile equipment which spin as water passes, could be put on nets and track the speed and time for which the equipment is pulled. Hours in the water could also be tracked by a resistance meter that can sense when it is in water because the resistance of the water is much less than of air so as the meter dries, resulting in a drop in resistance reading.

Implementing the Steps

Fishermen who choose to convert to sustainable fishing technology would receive subsidies with the goal of making Step 1 sustainable technology comparable to or cheaper than unsustainable fishing technology.

The time frame must be large enough to allow fishermen to replace their equipment whenever is most convenient for them (i.e. when they would naturally need to replace it), but small enough to leave very little time for inaction and to encourage countries to be proactive in their conversions. An extension can be added if it is needed on a case by case basis in order to meet the deadline.

Subsidies for Step 2 technology would be implemented before the Step 1 phase is fully complete so fisherman can choose to go straight to Step 2 and skip Step 1, if they can do so. Step 2 would continue past the end of the ITQ bonuses provided for Step 1 conversion. As sustainable fishing increases and unsustainable fishing decreases, subsidies would become largely unnecessary.

Local fishermen and small fishing companies would get larger per-net or equipment converted subsidies than large companies, who would receive a smaller subsidy based on a sliding scale. This is because large fishing companies would find it easier and have more capital available to convert to new technology than smaller groups of fishermen. However, due to this same capital, large fishing fleets might in fact be less likely to make the switch, so we propose that they also receive a tax break.

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