Fishtek Marine scallop Pot Light Shoot

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Ocean Awards 2023 winner: Q&A with Fishtek's Rob Enever on scallop potting

26 January 2024 • Written by Hannah Rankine

As anticipation builds for the Ocean Awards 2024, the spotlight turns once again to Fishtek, a Devon-based fisheries and engineering consultancy that clinched the Innovation Award in last year's awards for its pioneering work in scallop potting. BOAT International's Hannah Rankine sits down with Rob Enever at Fishtek to delve into the developments in scallop potting since their triumph last year.

In the world of marine conservation, innovation takes centre stage with the emergence of scallop potting, a groundbreaking method with the potential to transform the landscape of scallop harvesting. Whilst the traditional method of catching scallops - dredging - is extremely harmful to sensitive marine habitats and species, scallop potting was born serendipitously from an experiment carried out by Fishtek involving LED lights to attract crab and lobster. The unexpected result: a remarkable increase in scallop catch rates.

What is scallop potting and where did you get the idea from?

Scallop potting is a new method of catching scallops which happened by accident. We initially tried using lights to attract crab and lobster in pots and trialled this in many fisheries. After sending some lights to a fisherman in Cornwall, he informed me that after one month there was no real change in the amount of crab and lobster they were catching, but they had a huge increase in scallops. Normally, they would see five scallops per 35,000 pots per year and with the lights, they were seeing 10 to 15 per 50 pots per year.

Will it lead to the overfishing of scallops?

No, it shouldn’t. Overfishing is a function of bad management rather than innovation in new, lower-impact methods of fishing. For context, in the proposed regional trial, we expect to land 5,000 to 10,000 pot-caught scallops a week, which would be 250,000 to half a million pot-caught scallops a year. This pales in insignificance to the quantities landed by the UK dredge sector, which lands about 100 million scallops a year, notwithstanding those damaged and discarded in the catching process and not landed. So, scallop potting is much less damaging in many ways. Furthermore, a pot-caught scallop will give consumers a choice. Retailers, restauranteurs and marine managers will be able to choose an alternative scallop product and fishing method that will undoubtedly lead to conversations that may ultimately initiate the transition to a new, lower-impact form of scallop fishing.

Have there been any unexpected challenges in scallop potting?

Yes! Every day we are learning new things. They say never to work with children or animals. They were right. As this is currently a developing fishing method, it is challenging to tease out what works and what doesn't. So, we're constantly making changes and sometimes the scallops don't respond as we might expect.

What has winning at the Ocean Awards meant to you?

Winning at the Ocean Awards has helped us get greater exposure. At the moment, we are doing an equity raise with Triodos Bank to expedite the development and thus conservation outcomes of Fishtek’s stable of sustainable fishing technology. When we speak to investors, having the backing of BOAT International and awards like this helps us attract more interest and certainly raises our profile.

How are you planning on developing scallop potting?

We're working on optimising the light and we're developing the trap. The trap design is essentially the same as a normal crab pot, but we've modified the entrance to it. So, fishermen will be able to catch crab and lobster in the normal way, if not a little bit better, but also catch scallops for the first time as well. If you compare it to a normal pot with a light in it, [the new pot] will catch scallops eight times quicker. We're planning on doing a regional trial with 15 to 20 vessels so that we can get the scallop pots in the supply chain for restauranteurs.

Is this on the market at the moment?

Not currently, but it will be available this year in 2024.

The Ocean Awards recognises and rewards those that share our commitment to fixing the crisis in our oceans, from local heroes to renowned scientists and pioneering innovators. Nominations for the Ocean Awards 2024 are now closed. If you have any questions, please get in touch with the events team.

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