Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

How tech is revolutionising UK fishing - Fisheries APPG’s latest event

Last week the APPG on Fisheries and over 100 attendees heard from pioneering innovators from across the UK, about how data and technology are helping to improve the UK fisheries sector.

The fisheries sector is complex, and brings with it a range of challenges both new and old. Innovators from the worlds of science, tech, and the fishing industry itself have been working together to make fishing more resilient, safer, more transparent, and more environmentally friendly. The APPG’s latest event showcased some of the most impactful and promising efforts from the UK.


"It was fantastic to hear about all the exciting ways that collaborative efforts are improving the fishing industry,” said Sheryll Murray MP, who chaired the event. “Innovation has a very positive role to play in supporting the UK's fishermen and our marine environment."


Michael MacCorquodale from novel online sales platform Bullfish Market, who spoke first, saw opportunities for improving the industry within the recent disruption. “Despite the problems we have faced during the past year, Brexit and Covid-19 could arguably be the greatest opportunity for innovation,” he said. “It has allowed us to go online with platforms such as Bullfish Market, host events like this one and educate each other on the opportunities for our industry to grow.”


Matthew Frow, who heads up Seafish’s Kingfisher service, spoke next. The Kingfisher Bulletin provides fishermen with real-time information on hazards and other marine users. “I believe a considerable challenge facing innovation in the fishing industry is the adoption of technology by the smaller, less well financed vessels,” he said. “In particular, for technology relating to fishing safety, cost should never be an issue.”


The next three speakers all showcased technologies that aid fishing selectivity and help fishermen avoid unwanted bycatch. Tom Rossiter spoke of SafetyNet Technologies Ltd’s ‘Pisces’ tool that uses light to deter bycatch species, but also mentioned the need for stability in the sector. “Ongoing uncertainty is not a friend of innovators, nor the fishing industry that needs to feel secure in order to invest in new innovations and technology,” he said. His talk was followed by Professor Paul Fernandes, who spoke of how the Smartrawl project uses underwater cameras and artificial intelligence to fish selectively, and Dr Robert Enever of Fishtek Marine Ltd, who said the uptake of ‘pingers’ to deter cetaceans required constructive collaboration between fishermen, policymakers and technologists. 


The final two speakers both emphasised the need for inter-sector collaboration to maximise fishing efficiency and minimise its impact on the marine environment. Dr Mark James spoke of the recently concluded Scottish Inshore Fisheries Integrated Data System (SIFIDS) programme, which collected data with the collaboration of the inshore fleet to support co-management and stock assessment. David Stevens, skipper and chairperson of Fishing into the Future, rounded off the presentations by highlighting how mutual understanding and transparency is crucial. “The key to unlocking great opportunities in innovation is through creating the right policy approaches, achieved by working collaboratively,” he said.


The event was recorded and is available on the APPG website, along with a summary of the panelists’ answers to questions from attendees. The APPG Secretariat will also publish a policy brief detailing the outputs and key messages for the event in the coming weeks. The APPG on Fisheries’ next event will take place in the next parliamentary term. Sign up to their newsletter to be the first to hear about the event launch.