Activities for Sustainability

PSH beating scientists' expectations (SEALORD)

Fish survival rates are better than expected, according to the first comprehensive results following two years of scientifically testing the Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) fishing method.

Doing the Hoki Toki - shot taken from video footage of PSH in use.

The PSH method uses a large, flexible PVC liner which allows fish to be landed live, still swimming, and in perfect condition. Undersized or smaller species escape through specifically sized holes along the length of the liner before they are even brought on board a fishing vessel.

PSH is the commercialisation phase of nearly 10 years of New Zealand research. Three major New Zealand fishing companies are involved, with Sealord, Aotearoa Fisheries and Sanford investing $26 million between them. Ministry for Primary Industries invested another $26 million, matching the industry investment under a Primary Growth Partnership.

Scientists at Plant and Food Research are working with the fishing companies, to develop and trial the technology on commercial fishing vessels, and are positive about the results as well as the fishing industry.

Plant and Food Research Science Group Leader Alistair Jerrett says "we were certainly hopeful that we'd improve the survivability rates for the fish we were catching, but already it's better than we expected. Typically, snapper harvested with the PSH system have a 100% chance of survival if they're fished from a depth of 0-20 meters. For snapper taken from deeper water, from 20-90 meters, the survivability number is 79% and we're going to get better and better."

Suzy Black, a senior scientist on the project says it's been a pleasure to work with the commercial fishers on developing this new way to fish.

"I didn't think that in my career I would have the privilege of being a part of such an awesome programme. We're getting huge support from our industry, which we might not have expected ten years ago, but they are fantastic to work with and ultimately we are making fishing better and potentially turning it on its head."

Sealord General Manager Operations Dorje Strang says the PSH technology has been used extensively by the Sealord fleet and deep water will be an area of future focus for the scientists.

"We want to look at how the system operates in the deep waters off the South Island and particularly on vessels that are fishing for Hoki. Continuing to test for different species and at different depths is crucial to developing the most robust technology possible that can potentially work across the entire fishing fleet."

Testing now continues on new configurations of the fishing technology and scientists say they're aware that the eyes of New Zealand and the world are on the progress of this technology.

However scientists are cautioning against too much excitement, too early. They are now in the third year of a six year programme, so there is plenty of science still to be done.

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