Opportunistic predators caught on CatchCam

Clyde fisherman Ian Wightman, who fishes for prawns on the Eilidh Anne GK 2, has been quoted previously in the pages of FN about the explosion in seal numbers in the Clyde. Seals following the vessel are now a routine part of his fishing day.

Even he, however, was shocked at the picture shown here, captured by the CatchCam camera he is using in his trawl as he experiments with the use of different lights to his net to further reduce bycatch.

“We’re used to seeing seals regularly entering the net now, to feed inside the trawl, but we moved the position of the camera recently, to look at fish behaviour in the codend and the best light patterns to use to improve our selectivity and avoid unwanted bycatch. We were astounded to see seals actually thumping the codend itself, in order to force through fish on which they would then feed.

“They are clearly habituated to this, and it’s not a reflection of the lights we are using – we’ve undertaken tows using red light only, which is invisible to the seals at the depths we are fishing at, but this activity, predating from outside the codend, is identical.”

Whilst the CatchCam has picked up multiple instances of seals entering a trawl during tows to feed, both on fish and on squid in the semi-pelagic nets used in the targeted fishery in the Moray Firth, this is the first time cameras have recorded seals attacking a codend in order to feed.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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