Scottish Creel Fishers respond: Key Takeaway Points from a Ropeless Fishing Survey

Fisherman Bally Philp and Sawicki with Desert Star Systems ARC-1 Ropeless Fishing System, 2020.

One of the most critical aspects to the objective collection and analysis of data requires that bias be eliminated wherever and whenever possible. This means testing the gear in locations where conditions, both sea and social, present no obstacles to fishers providing feedback on design and applicability to their practices.

Fisherman Haydn MacKenzie with Fiomarine FioBuoy,  2020.
Fisherman Haydn MacKenzie with Fiomarine FioBuoy, 2020.

To ensure the continued success of a co-management approach to fisheries practices, priority needs to be given to the design of more thoughtful experimental trials that allow the technology alone to be reviewed. To date, gear testing, trials, and demonstrations have not been conducted in a standardized manner, making data difficult to review and reach scientific consensus. It is essential to create a proficient methodology considering the equipment, preparation, deployment, and retrieval of the gear, which can only be accomplished through collaboration between researchers, gear developers, and fishermen.

Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing all of the feedback from those involved in the Scottish creel ropeless fishing survey as a series of separate posts. I will focus on different aspects of the survey each week to allow for thoughtful processing by others of their comments and observations and would encourage any and all respectful feedback be submitted by others.

Fishers have confidence in themselves and others to Learn & usE ropeless technology

These results are from anonymous survey conducted with eight Scottish creel fishermen, seven of who had trialed and/or actively fished with two ropeless fishing devices (Fiomarine’s Fiobuoy® and Desert Star Systems, ARC-1,) and this researcher. (September 2019-January 2020.) The eighth fisher was educated on the systems, but was not able to trial the gears, and the ninth participant was a marine biologist who was invited by a fisher to participate in ropeless training who is also a member of British Diver’s Marine Life Rescue (disentanglement team) who actively worked the gears with a fisher.

Sawicki, 2020.
Fisherman Dale Harris and Sawicki with Desert Star Systems ARC-1 Ropeless Fishing System.
Sawicki, 2020.
BDMLR Medic Chris Rickard and Fisher Duncan Masson, Fiomarine FioBuoy, 2020.
Sawicki, 2020.

Survey Notes:

Sketch of fisher design for respooling ropeless gear, 2020.

Because the cost of ropeless retrieval technology has been widely discussed in most previous trials that fishermen have participated in, it was not a primary focus of this outreach effort. In fact, many of the comments from past published surveys, research, reports, and articles surrounding the testing of gear pertain to cost, indicating that fishers knew that the technology represented an additional cost to them. While transparency is vital to maintaining trusting relationships between researchers and fishermen, this repetitive discussion of cost likely has led to a negative bias on survey and study results. Finally, fishers have expressed a reluctance participate in surveys or testing (not just related to ropeless) and unintentionally advance new or restrictive regulations to their fishery.

Instead, during these trials, the researcher chose to discuss the costs affiliated with fishing with end lines and buoys, and how gear loss effects fishers and the general public in a variety of ways prior to any discussion of prices per unit.

The Hidden Costs of Gear Loss Credit: Annika Toth, 2019.

What did Fishers have to say about the gear?

The following statements are offered as a sample of the feedback received. Overall, the qualitative data affirmed technical success and identified ongoing challenges:

  •  “I was really impressed…A few wee tweaks, I think it would be ready to go really. There’s all these little subtleties, but once you get the hang of it, there’s not much to it
  • “We’ve seen six bits of gear, mostly buoys, on the shore right here; I’d argue if it was ropeless, there wouldn’t be any.”
  • “The obvious advantage is removing the whole entanglement issue, but also for us, we lose quite a lot of gear here, to either other fishermen or boats, and we get our gear dragged about quite a bit by the weather, so if the buoys are deep enough, those things aren’t issues at all. Sometimes, with big swell, the buoys will pick up the last creel, and it walks up the fleet and picks up the next creel, so you end up with this ball of creels, picking up the next as they go. If you had ropeless gear, that wouldn’t be an issue.”

Kim Sawicki – January 2020.

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