Materials Planet Care

303: Selective fishing net


In 2008, the Norwegian coast guard filmed a Scottish fishing vessel riding gray swells, dumping 5 tonnes of dead fish back into the North Sea. Over the European Union catch quota and unable to keep all the fish they had caught, the fishermen had to ditch some. To the Norwegians, who aren’t part of the EU and hold a strict discards ban, the waste was shocking.


In 2011, Dan Watson, a Royal College of Art student in Glasgow designed an ocean trawling system that would allow certain fish to escape via lighted rings, offering more catch selectivity.

For his SafetyNet, Watson received an MA in Innovation Design Engineering. The escape rings can be retrofitted into any net to keep the holes of the net stretched open, permitting small fish to escape and ensuring that only marketable ones are caught (ordinarily, the mesh becomes compressed as it is dragged through the water by the boat). The rings are illuminated to make the exits more visible.

An internal separator panel running horizontally within the net delineates the border between a finer upper mesh and wider-spaced lower mesh, taking advantage of the fact that endangered cod tend to swim downwards when under stress but the desired haddock and whiting will tend to swim upward.

Two models of escape ring are both capable of snapping onto existing mesh nets; one is battery-powered, and the other is self-charging, capturing the energy from the flow of water over a small built-in turbine in order to generate power to the LEDs. Using the ‘safetynet’ system, the fishing industry can become more sustainable. In 2012 SafetyNet won the James Dyson Design Award.

To further commercialise, Watson founded SafetyNet Technologies, enlisting the help of Aran Dasan and Steven Ogborne. This included integrating their PISCES light-emitting devices into fishing gear to lower non-target by-catch in fishing activities. PISCES was trialled by Carrefour’s suppliers, FROM Nord, in the Eastern Channel fishery in order to avoid the capture of juvenile whiting.

SafetyNet Technologies has great ambition to make fishing more sustainable, and part of that is to sustain the fishermen’s livelihoods, by making devices that not only work to fish selectively but are easy to use and maintain.

What you can do:

Discoverr Solution 304: Toftlund

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