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New ‘hydro-dredge’ trials appear promising 4 May 2007

Fishermen, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry staff and scientists from University of Wales-Bangor and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spent 3 days last week working on a new experimental hydro-dredge, that it is hoped will reduce by-catch, fuel and gear costs for scallop and queenie fishermen.

The dredge uses hemispheres that create a vortex designed to stir up the seabed and dislodge scallops, a less damaging and fuel intensive way of fishing than the traditional use of toothed bars. The dredge appeared to work well on flume tank and sea trials in the USA, but is not in commercial use. Two days of trials took place on board the University of Wales-Bangor’s research vessel Prince Madog, with a further day on board the Manx registered beamer/scalloper De Bounty.

Cliff Goudey, the inventor of the dredge, said ‘To create a suitable vortex the dredge needs to be towed at at least 4 knots, faster than conventional scallop gear. This can make comparison between gear types more difficult, and we also had some teething problems when shooting the gear away. However, the trials on board the De Bounty were more promising, with the experimental dredge catching as many scallops on one tow as the commercial gear towed off the other beam.’

Plans are already underway for a more detailed research programme that could develop into full scale commercial trials. Dr Sam Shephard, a fisheries scientist employed by the University of Wales-Bangor to advise the Department, said ‘There are a huge number of factors that can affect fishing gear, and it can often take some time to tune that gear to fit local conditions. We will be analysing the results of this initial trial, and using what we have learned when designing a more detailed research programme’

The Prince Madog is a purpose built research vessel operated by the University, replacing a previous vessel of the same name that was built in Ramsey, and returned there for an annual refit. The Department was pleased to be able to welcome the state of the art vessel to the Isle of Man, as part of the new contract it has with the Department, and it is hoped that the vessel will become a regular sight in Manx waters in the coming years.

Phil Gawne MHK, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said ‘I am pleased that the Isle of Man is leading the way in the development of fishing gear of this type. The work could have great benefits for Manx fishermen and the marine environment. The interest being shown in this work by scientists from around Europe is a testament to the success of our new working partnership with the University of Wales-Bangor. I hope that further work on this dredge will lead to successful commercial trials, and, if successful, it’s eventual adoption by the Manx fleet.’

Hydro-dredge tests
L-R Dr Sam Shephard, Phil Jones , Ray Hatton, a local vessel owner and Professors Kaiser and Goudey

L-R Dr Sam Shephard, Phil Jones , Ray Hatton, a local vessel owner and Professors Kaiser and Goudey, examining a catch taken by the experimental dredge.

testing the dredge
Prince Madog hauls the hydro-dredge during testing

The experimental dredge being hauled on to the research vessel Prince Madog, operated by the University of Wales-Bangor

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