Wednesday, 13 April 2022


Before looking at Project Fisheye let's go back to the latest in fishing gear technology from the 1990s in Cornwall. Plymouth based fishing gear and net designer...

Winston Phillips sing the latest in cad-cam software to design his trawl gear

Winston Phillips commissioned Phil Lockley, fisherman, diver and Fishing News journalist to record his work designing flip-over ropes (not to be confused with the John Day designed flip-up rope designed for beam trawls)...

The stone trap, designed in the mid 80s helped to trap larger stones and prevent the trawl belly from being ripped out.

and stone traps for trawls as well as Net-Tec doors...

Winston hanging on to the trawl headline.

Remote, underwater cameras were prohibitively expensive in those days so there was only one thing for Phil and Winston to do, don the diving gear go over the side and hang on to the headline of the trawl while it was bring towed - then slowly pull yourself out to the starboard wing and film the new doors with wheels on (designed in Hull) as they were being towed. How times have changed!

Wind the clock forward to 2022 and technology, and ideas about health and safety have moved on somewhat!

Back to Project Fisheye. 

Led by SafetyNet Technologies and part funded by The Marine Management Organisation (via FaSS funding), the project has come to an end after three months. It successfully accelerated the development of a new underwater camera for commercial fishing. This was achieved through extensive testing on fishing vessels and consulting fishermen in the UK, EU, USA, and Canada. The invaluable input provided by twenty-six fishers has helped guide the design of the camera system. An underwater camera designed for fishers, with fishers.

At the start of Project Fisheye, SafetyNet Technologies’ underwater camera was at an early stage of development. However, the only way to progress the design forward is to get fishermen to test it out and give feedback.

Between January and March 2022, trials were conducted on four commercial fishing vessels in the UK: Eilidh Anne, Shuna, Golden Ray, and Virtuous. Additionally, feedback was collected in a survey of twenty-six fishermen from Europe and North America. As a result, SafetyNet Technologies gained insight into what features an underwater camera would need and how it would be used in fishing operations.

During trials in the UK, the underwater cameras were deployed on creel pots and bottom trawlers, proving to work well on both gear types. In particular, fishermen found that the long battery life and the small but robust housing were ideal for deployments on fishing gears in harsh conditions. Furthermore, the wireless charging feature of the camera was much more practical in the wet environment than using cables.

The feedback from fishermen was useful for improving certain features, such as the gear attachment method. The original design was found to be awkward and slow on deck making it unsuitable. From their feedback and ideas, new housings are being developed that will be easier and quicker to attach.

Other aspects of the technology which the project investigated include lighting and footage review. The trials investigated both direct and indirect lighting using SafetyNet Technologies’ Pisces lights. Factors such as turbidity and fish behaviour were found to be affected by the lighting source.

The fishers also emphasised the importance of presenting and reviewing the footage. They needed to quickly access the useful footage without trawling through hours of video. It was agreed that the camera system needed to support wireless download and an app for managing videos.

Project Fisheye has enabled SafetyNet Technologies to work directly with fishermen from Europe and North America. This would not have been possible without FaSS funding from the MMO.

The benefits of using underwater cameras

Already, the underwater cameras have provided valuable insights for fishers. Footage collected during Project Fisheye has shed light into how fish behave in fishing gear, if bycatch mitigation tools are working, and how fishing operations could be optimised.

In one case, the fishers only needed to see a few seconds of footage to see that their gear was not optimised and required instant modification. As a result of this, they were able to prevent significant loss of profit due to inefficient gear.

Underwater cameras are useful tools to enable Precision Fishing for optimised and sustainable fishing operations. However, these cameras have not been widely adopted by UK fishermen because those available on the market are expensive (>£50k) and are difficult to use.

With the support of MMO funding, SafetyNet Technologies is developing an affordable, fit-for-purpose alternative.

Next steps and availability

SafetyNet Technologies’ will now take all the findings from Project Fisheye and use them to update the underwater camera system.

SafetyNet Technologies is currently developing new beta-versions of the underwater camera system. These cameras will be designed around the feedback given by fishers involved in Project Fisheye. After more trials and tweaking, a limited number are planned to be available for sale in the second half of 2022.

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