A great start to the Seal Bycatch Project!

Megan Shapiro

The net camera work for the DPLUS168 Seal Bycatch project is in full swing! One aspect of the  Seal Bycatch project is collecting data on seal interactions with commercial fisheries. More specifically, how the individual animals are interacting with the Seal Exclusion Devices (SEDs) on each fishing net. The SEDs are made up of a mesh panel to direct the intended catch downwards and through a metal gate to the cod end. The metal gate is located inside of the net at an angle, so that any larger animals cannot swim through to the cod end of the net and get trapped, and rather swim upwards through an escape hatch located on the top of the net.

Image: Megan by the F/V Igueldo

Our net camera specialist, Megan Shapiro, who joined the team in the Falklands in January 2023,  went out to sea from February 4th-20th on the F/V Igueldo for the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department pre-loligo season research cruise. She was able to deploy two of SAERI’s new SOLOxNetview cameras on a total of 48 trawls. For each trawl, different positions and orientations on the net were tested in order to find the best view of the SED. This can be seen in the photo and graphic below, where, in the graphic, P1-P6 indicates the different locations of the cameras which were tested on the net. Many different camera configurations and parameter set-ups were also tested, in order to find the best combination of settings to provide the best quality data.

Image: Net-SED illustration

Like all gear trials, there was good trouble shooting to be had, which naturally comes with new found knowledge on the specific intricacies that make each piece of equipment work.  Megan has been in communication with the manufacturers to troubleshoot and work to better protect and effectively utilize the cameras on near-bottom trawls.  There has been good communication with fishing companies with the hopes of going out to sea for more gear trials, this time on finfish vessels, where SED usage is not as widely utilized. 

Image: Megan and Crew on the Igueldo
By the time prime seal season comes around in June, there will be a specific protocol to follow for camera deployment on fishing vessels, so that we can collect footage of seals interacting with the SEDs to better understand seal-fishery interactions.
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