The Ocean Bounty TV series restarts this Sunday, exploring some of the people, places and practices in New Zealand’s commercial seafood sector.

The fact that we are onto series five speaks to the wealth of interesting stories out there. We know there are plenty of reasons to tell these stories, and to celebrate the positives, but sometimes we forget to do that – especially during the churn of an election year and fisheries reforms where we are caught up responding to policies and announcements.

It’s human nature to be attuned to bad news. The stuff that irks.

So we encourage you to take a minute to remind yourself about the bottomless well of hard work, done well – from the everyday business of fishing to feed people, to edgier entrepreneurial and innovative activity.

It’s not a hard ask.  A few of us in the SNZ office this week could recall a dozen examples in a matter of minutes. Here are a few.  

The Deepwater Info Portal – coming to a deepwater vessel helm near you
The SNZ Deepwater Council are fine-tuning an online portal that will connect skippers and crew to digital versions of essential information.

Deepwater fleet skippers and crew apply operational procedures, protected species risk management plans, and vessel management plans like clockwork. The Deepwater Council team saw the opportunity to build on this and move vessels from paper-based to digital systems.

The Deepwater Info Portal will provide more targeted and easier-to-access information based on the fishery the vessel is operating in. Under development with Dragonfly Data Science, the portal is being trialed on vessels to get feedback from skippers and vessel managers before rolling out a final version to the full trawl fleet.

AI is going to make a critical difference
An artificial intelligence (AI) tool is being used to further reduce incidents of black petrel bycatch.

The risk to black petrels, incurred when they dive for baited hooks as lines are lowered into the sea, has reduced in the past 20 years with the use of mitigation measures on longline vessels.  While birds are still caught occasionally, their survival rate is high if they can be released from the hook in time.

Dragonfly Data Science have trained an AI and camera system to identify a petrel and alert the crew, who can then bring the line up and release the bird. The AI tool can spot around 85% of seabird captures and can do it faster than a person reviewing a camera feed. The best results are being seen when the AI tool is used in conjunction with a person keeping an eye on the lines. 

A tasty catch, at zero risk to seabirds
We love the Okains Bay Seafood story as an example of how the hard way can sometimes be the better way for a particular operator or fishery.

Founded by Greg Summerton (Waitaha, Ngāi Tahu), Okains Bay kaimoana is part of Greg’s whakapapa, going back centuries.

Explained in beautiful detail on the Okains Bay Seafood website, Greg’s crew fish for ling using the traditional Māori method of potting, taking it to state of the art, very high standards of sustainable harvesting.

The crew pot for ling from the Kawatea after years of longlining with hooks. They describe the shift to potting as having ‘revolutionised’ the way they interact with seabirds to the point they don’t need seabird mitigation devices to achieve zero seabird bycatch rates.

The practicalities of potting mean bait is enclosed in the pot, where non-target fish, birds and mammals cannot reach it. It’s also a low carbon-emission method, highly selective and light on the seafloor. But it’s not the easiest method, so kudos to the crew for their success.

Your turn
To emphasise, these are three examples from a dozen interesting and inspirational stories that sprang to mind in about three minutes when we asked ourselves about reasons to celebrate our sector.

What do you know that’s going on out there in fishing that we should be talking about? Please take a minute to let us know, by dropping us a line at: [email protected]