Clean Catch UK have launched an innovative new app, developed with and for the fishing industry. The app, supported by Defra and developed by Cefas and AST, is designed to be easy to use alongside fishing as usual activities, enabling crews to record vital information about their catch, including bycatch (the unintended capture or entanglement of non-target species in fishing gear) whilst at sea. The Clean Catch UK programme is a UK-wide network of organisations invested in the monitoring and reduction of accidental wildlife bycatch, working at the national, regional and – in this case – local level with members of the fishing industry, scientists, policy makers, and conservation organisations.
App users can record accidental bycatch of sensitive marine species such as dolphins and porpoises, seals, seabirds, sharks, skates and rays. This data collected by fishermen will contribute to an ongoing Clean Catch UK study to learn more about wildlife bycatch in South-West England fisheries, including where and when bycatch occurs, and which sensitive species are most susceptible. This data will also help Clean Catch UK researchers assess the efficacy of mitigation measures to reduce accidental bycatch, and the programme has ambitions for the app to be used across several regional studies.
Stuart Hetherington, a Senior Marine Biologist at Cefas and Lead for the Clean Catch UK Programme, explained the importance of designing and executing research studies in partnership with fishermen. “Accidental capture of sensitive species of marine wildlife is an important issue to address, and the Clean Catch UK team works closely with the fishing industry to find solutions. Fishing crews themselves are best-placed to collect data on bycatch – they are on the water and know their catch and bycatch better than anyone. By working in partnership with skippers, we’re ensuring the new CleanCatch UK app is easy to use, to streamline data collection without disrupting or adding undue burden to usual fishing activities.”
The data collected by fishing crews using the app will contribute to Clean Catch UK’s study on wildlife bycatch in South-West England fisheries, and the research team are also keen for the app to be developed and used in research further afield. The current study looks at wildlife bycatch in South-West fisheries, as well as the efficacy of various mitigation measures in reducing this bycatch. Skippers in the Clean Catch UK Local Focus Group, who helped to develop the app, are using it to collect data in a common dolphin and harbour porpoise bycatch reduction study. They’re also providing vital feedback to ensure that the app is fit-for-purpose and easy to use whilst fishing as usual.
Victoria Bendall, Marine Scientist for Cefas and Co-Lead for Clean Catch UK, is keen for more fishing crews to use the app as part of this study.“The data already being collected by Cornish fishermen using the app is vital to understanding patterns of bycatch of sensitive marine species. Knowing more about these patterns, we can work closely with our dedicated skippers to determine the best ways to help reduce accidental wildlife bycatch,” she said.
The Clean Catch UK programme hopes the new app will make it easier for more vessels to take part in this study.“More crews using the app means a more detailed picture about how to reduce bycatch across UK fisheries. We’re keen to work with more vessels and would love to hear from anyone interested in getting involved.”
Any fishing crews interested in finding out more about the app, or taking part in a Clean Catch UK study, can contact Stuart and Victoria at email@example.com.