Moana NZ supports approval of new fishing techonology

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Moana New Zealand welcomes the news that the revolutionary new Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) fishing technology has been given the green light for the North Island inshore fisheries.

After seven years of trials by the programme, Fisheries New Zealand has approved the use of the new kiwi developed technology, known as the Modular Harvest System (MHS) in North Island inshore fisheries for snapper, tarakihi, trevally, red gurnard, and john dory with specific conditions.

The technology also known as the PSH used with specific conditions provides an alternative future fishing method for many New Zealand fish species that also supports the sustainability of our fish stocks and  protects marine mammals.

With kaitiakitanga being one of Moana New Zealand’s guiding values, the company’s CEO, Steve Tarrant was pleased to hear of this milestone announcement.

“As an iwi owned company, sustainability and care for the future of our fish stocks in Aotearoa is at the forefront of what we do,”

“It’s important that our contract fishers are using best practice fishing methods that pay homage to our values of kaitiakitanga and whakatipuranga in order to foster healthy fish stocks for both now, and future generations,” he says.

Moana New Zealand alongside the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Sealord Group and Sanford Limited have been a part of the $48 million, seven year Precision Seafood Harvesting trial that has seen the development of a new fishing technology based on science from Plant & Food Research.

There are currently 10 Moana and Sanford in-shore vessels trialling the technology under a special permit. With the approval of the MHS for commercial use, vessels and their crews will transition to using it full-time and additional vessels will take up the technology.

Nathan Reid, Moana New Zealand Quota and Resource Manager was part of the initial work exploring alternatives to current trawl methods with fisheries scientists and fishing experts before the PSH programme was formally established. He says that the PSH programme has not only developed the new way to fish, it’s also seen the team discovering and developing new innovations, like the ability for fishing crews to monitor what’s in their catch in real time while they are fishing.

“For the past 100 years, we’ve had limited visibility of what is occurring inside the trawl net.  Now we’re developing underwater monitoring and ‘remote release’ technology so fishing crews can monitor what they’ve got in the MHS in real time and safely release the fish inside if a marine mammal like a dolphin swims inside.

“These additional innovations are in their early stages of development, but if we can nail them, it will add to the overall sustainability benefits of this new way to fish by reducing the unintended capture of protected species and bycatch and reducing tow times because we know when we’ve caught enough fish.  This will also reduce CO2 emissions and benthic impacts,” says Reid.

Greg Johansson from the PSH Governance Group has also worked on the project since the start and says the fishing crews testing this new technology over the past seven years are heroes of this kiwi innovation story. “They’re part of creating a transformational legacy for the next generations of kiwi fishers. They don’t want to go back to traditional fishing gear – they’re excited about this as their future for fishing and now want to get into it full time to see how they can make it even better.”

The technology is the first innovation of its kind in 100 years of commercial fishing that has been approved for commercial use in New Zealand, and it’s a world first. Greg Johansson says the new way to fish means better quality fish, less waste and will have long term benefits for sustainability of New Zealand fish species.

Fisheries scientists and fishing crews working on developing the technology have found that fish caught using the MHS are in much better condition and quality when they’re landed because, unlike traditional mesh-based trawl designs, once inside the MHS underwater the fish are held in conditions of very low velocity water flow.
The fish are then brought on board still swimming inside the technology’s unique liner. This means that fish landed on board the fishing vessels are alive, in great condition and by-catch or undersized fish can be returned to the sea with a much better chance of survival.

“Importantly fish that go through the specially designed ‘escapement holes’ in the MHS underwater have a better chance of survival than if they go out through traditional trawl mesh,” says Johansson.

“But we’re still only just starting to really see the potential for longer-term biomass gains from either selectivity within the MHS or release post-harvest. Like all new innovations, the development and testing takes longer than anticipated and we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” he says.