Precision Fishing: Net benefits

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Precision Fishing: Net benefits

Sea fishing is becoming less sustainable as the taste for seafood increases in pace with the world’s population. It is clear that trawler fleets will have to employ smart technologies to bring about precision fishing so that depleted species can be left undisturbed while thriving shoals are harvested.

by Gordon Feller

Seafood is the animal protein of choice for over 17 percent of the world’s ever-growing population. One 21st century fact that many governments don’t appear to have fully absorbed is that people are eating more fish than ever. From 1961 to 2016 there has been a 3.2 percent annual increase in demand for seafood. Driven by the rise in global population, total world fish consumption is projected to increase by another 20 percent between 2016 and 2030.

Precision Fishing - DigiCatch-SmartLight

Lighting the Depths: DigiCatch’s high-intensity lighting system is remotely dimmable and works at depths of up to 100 fathoms.

Despite this, the $500 billion (€419 billion) seafood industry has several major problems. Overfishing, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, and the use of fish for other purposes besides human consumption all threaten the global seafood supply. The quest to harvest enough fish and the need to satisfy soaring consumer demand will continue to exert incredible pressures on marine systems. It now takes five times the effort to catch the same amount of fish as it did in 1950. The reason for this is quite simple: so many species that we depended on are now in scarce supply.

The introduction of new and advanced precision-fishing tools and technologies is beginning to help companies optimize and reduce the waste in their operations. According to several recent reports (including McKinsey & Company’s 2019 report Precision Fisheries: Navigating a Sea of Troubles with Advanced Analytics), if large-scale fishing companies around the world would adopt these new technologies more enthusiastically, they could decrease their annual operating costs by around $11 billion (€9 billion).

Precision-fishing technologies will not only help improve commercial fishing, it will also improve the ability for managers to adaptively govern various fisheries around the world more sustainably. It is projected that precision-fishing technologies could increase industry profits by as much as $53 billion (€44 billion) by 2050 (as noted by McKinsey’s 2020 report How Advanced Analytics Can Help Restore the World’s Fish Supply) while also doubling the level of total fish biomass in the ocean.

Precision Fishing - quest for fish - Fish by Numbers

Diminishing Returns: The quest for fish is a billion-dollar business. But as demand grows, so do the costs as supplies of wild fish are becoming increasingly scarce.

More fish are harvested by trawling than any other method of fishing. The problem with trawl fishing is waste. It is inherently a “blind” activity and on average one in every four fish caught is typically the wrong species, known as bycatch. According to some estimates, global bycatch may amount to 10 percent of the world’s haul, totaling 16 billion pounds (7.3 billion kilograms) of waste per year. Several companies are developing precision harvesting and traceability products to reduce waste, improve data availability, and improve sustainability in the seafood industry. Their tools directly address overfishing and dwindling fish stocks with clean technologies and advanced analytics.

Precision Fishing: Eyes in the Net

One such company is SmartCatch from California’s Silicon Valley. It has developed DigiCatch, a turnkey system that allows trawler skippers to harvest their targeted species with greater precision. At its heart is a real-time, highd efnition smart camera system that gives the fishermen “eyes in their net.” The camera is in a 1.2-meter metal tube which also contains powerful lighting and sensors for temperature, salinity, and water depth. The images and data can be viewed from the ship’s wheelhouse, allowing fishermen to move on when they see stocks are low or when fish are the wrong size or species.

Precision Fishing - Watching the Catch

Watching the Catch SmartCatch has a real-time camera that can sort out unwanted species of fish and help protect the environment at the same time.

This operational transparency supports fishing optimization while avoiding unwanted species and reducing negative ecological footprints. The real-time camera works n any coax sonar cable system and retrofits any type of trawl net.

Since regulations alone cannot eliminate overfishing, fisheries need more progressive solutions to stay on a sustainable trajectory while minimizing their environmental impact. The integration and growth of advanced analytics in seafood harvesting is on track to solve many of the supply chain waste challenges. “If the governing agencies and fishing related companies get it right, linking the physical and digital worlds could generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value by 2025,” according to McKinsey.

Precision Fishing - Trend in wild-fish capture by region CAGR

Thanks for All the Fish: Thanks to IoT, trawler skippers can search for and harvest their targeted species.

SmartCatch’s DigiServices features and IoT devices are designed to facilitate the real-time collection, organization, analysis, and storage of seafood data. The connected products and digital services leverage big data, artificial intelligence (AI), digital video, deep analytics, and cloud computing. The company is currently developing AI integration across the systems to relieve captains from always having to view the screen, recognize and count fish, and pull the data needed to help drive efficiencies and profits.

Precision Fishing - Wheelhous Fishing

Wheelhouse Fishing: Images and data can be viewed directly without the need to leave the ship’s wheelhouse.

SmartCatch’s future plans for hardware devices and software aims to facilitate the capturing and “brokering” of critical data for fishermen, catch processors, buyers, and certification agencies. This includes blockchain authentication of fishing data and provenance – ultimately, the value the company’s product roadmap promises will extend across the entire value chain.

Best Connections

Cloud technology is a chief enabler for these capabilities. Computing technology has continued to become a lot cheaper and we use cloud computing for massively available storage, massively available compute power, so you can now do things with predictive analytics and science to change the way a business works, instead of relying on traditional manual processes. Technologies like SmartCatch’s IoT system are using cloud benefits to convert physical data into actionable insights, as well as improving biosecurity by connecting the data from the first mile – harvest and processing – to the last mile, which means the actual consumer. The more that tools like this are put out there, the more likely businesses are to achieve more favorable outcomes faster and with greater profitably.

Get everything you want to know about your piece of fish.
Rob Terry, Founder and CTO of SmartCatch


The key to these IoT systems is that they are not just focused on generic species or type information, they also place an emphasis on what is specific to each fish. Among these areas of focus would be: where and when the fish was harvested; its attributes; quality testing information in a consumer-friendly view; benchmarking against industry standards; how and where the fish was processed; how it was handled; sustainability information; and similar relevant information.

According to Rob Terry, SmartCatch’s founder and CTO, “In the future when someone is interested in eating fish, I can easily imagine them being able to scan in a smart QR code on a store package, or even a restaurant menu, and the display appears with everything they would ever want to know about their piece of fish.”

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