Fishermen across the nation are being asked to help identify technology priorities that can be scaled up to benefit all users through a Seafood Harvesters of America survey. Leigh Habegger is group director –

“This survey kind of rose out of the recognition that the fishing industry needs a lot of advancements in the technology department. You know, a lot of times we see vessels using technology that’s 10, 12, 15 years old. And they haven’t really caught up with all the technological advances. I think another part of this is that it’s not always clear how technology can be applied to fishing vessels, as they’re very unique platforms.”

The short survey includes tech advancements in four areas: sustainability, such as bycatch reduction and gear selectivity; safety, productivity and data, such as sensors for collection.

“We’re hoping that we’re able to put together a list of priorities and share that with investors and with people who are interested in funding tech development for the fishing industry.”

Broadly scaling tech advances is a big challenge to make them cost effective for developers. Something designed for a specific problem or region can mean the user group is too small, says Harvesters vice president Edward Poulson of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

“Scale is a big one in the fishing industry, because you could be talking to a technology company and if they are only designing something that is going to be used for something really difficult to build, like an automated pot hauler, that’s super expensive and really hard to scale. You’re not going to have the market opportunity to really amortize that over a lot of boats to build a big profit potential for a technology company. However, if you can show that there’s a lot of other fishing vessels in the United States that may have some similar sort of a need, then all of a sudden technology companies have a lot larger interest.”

Input from across the U.S. will help identify similar needs and patterns, says Leigh Habegger –

“I think one of the benefits of harvesters being involved in this is that we have fishing groups as members all over the country, from Alaska to Hawaii, to Maine to Florida. And so we can start to sort of identify patterns. Maybe folks who are using fixed gear pots in New England might have some similarities with   the Dungeness crab out on the west coast. And is there a solution that might work to address whale entanglements across both of these fisheries versus trying to do this piecemeal? So I think our hope is that this report can be the start of a more regular kind of tech survey, but also a chance to bring together fishermen from across the country under one roof along with the tech industry to help catalyze some of these conversations moving forward.”

The Harvesters group hopes to gather responses by the end of May.

A priority list and a report will follow along with plans to bring fishermen, tech developers and fishery managers together this fall to move conversations forward.

Find a link to the Fisheries Technology Survey here