Dr. Shannon Bayse and team set out to revolutionize fishing practices for redfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2020. The primary goal was to develop a semi-pelagic trawl, a type of fishing net, that could effectively target redfish while minimizing the unintended capture of other species (bycatch) and reducing damage to the seabed.
Traditional groundfish trawling involves dragging nets along the seabed, which can lead to high bycatch rates and environmental harm. Dr. Bayse's team innovated by adjusting the trawl's rigging. They connected the upper parts of the trawl to the warps (the cables that tow the net) in a way that allowed the net to be fished off the seabed. This adjustment meant the net could capture redfish - which often swim above the seabed - while allowing other species that stay close to the seabed to escape underneath the net.
The project involved designing and testing a scale model of the trawl in a controlled environment, and then constructing a full-scale version for sea trials. These trials were crucial in assessing how the trawl operated in real conditions, how redfish behaved around the trawl, and the effectiveness of the trawl in selectively capturing redfish.
Preliminary results were promising, indicating that this new trawling method could potentially offer a more sustainable way to fish for redfish, by targeting them more selectively and reducing bycatch. This research represents a significant step forward in developing fishing practices that are both economically beneficial and environmentally responsible.