Jointly supported be ICES and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), WGFTFB is an international forum for scientists and technologists to present research on commercial fishing practices. This year's meeting was hosted by DTU Aqua in Hirtshals, Denmark, with 101 participants (and 20 observers) from 22 countries, including Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Turkey, and the USA, as well as most European member countries.
The science shared at the meeting described diverse fishing gear projects, on a broad range of research topics. These included developing more environmentally responsible fishing methods and assessing the impact of fishing gears on the ecosystem. One example was developing biodegradable fishing nets with the aim of reducing marine litter and ghost fishing.
Many projects tested innovative selective fishing gears in collaboration with the fishing industry, incentivized by the Landing Obligation and reducing unwanted catches. These practical trials were supported by initiatives to communicate selective gear options to the fishing industry and to promote industry-led gear testing. The effect of gear design and fishing operation on the survival of discarded catches was also described.
Other areas studied included the use of artificial light for bycatch mitigation. Using lights in trawls and on fish pots can substantially modify the behaviour and catches of fish and other organisms. This is currently receiving a lot of attention and is showing high potential as a tool to change selectivity.
A series of factsheets on fishing gear selectivity and catch comparison trials are also being developed, drawing on the group's global nature and thus ideal position to both gather and disseminate this type of information.
Other key areas addressed included the contact probability of selective devices and evaluation of trawl ground-gear.
Members of WGFTFB spelling out their group's acronym on the beach in Hirtshals, Denmark; Photo: Jordan Feekings.