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App to help Scottish skippers reduce bycatch wins award

An app being used by Scottish skippers to share real-time information with each other about the location of hotspots of unwanted fish has won a sustainability award.

The Bycatch Avoidance Tool using Mapping (BATmap) was developed by scientists from the University of Aberdeen, Chordata and the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and launched in June 2020. It is currently being used by 15 fishing vessels operating on the west coast of Scotland.

It was announced this month in The Fishing News that the ground-breaking collaboration had been named the winner of the Fishing News Sustainability Award.

BATmap is a web-based app that can be used on phones (iOS and Android), tablets and desktops. Skippers use the app to log the start and end time of each haul, and the total catch (kg) of cod, whiting and spurdog, all of which they wish to avoid catching. BATmap automatically collects information on vessel location allowing skippers to map their own catch. The data provided by all participating vessels is combined and alerts are automatically sent out when pre-defined levels of catch are exceeded in a specific location.

Dr Tara Marshall, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “We wanted to design a practical solution to the problem of mixed fisheries. A mixed fishery exists where different species mingle on the fishing grounds, making it difficult to target one species without catching others. In the west of Scotland mixed fishery, a decline in abundance of cod has led to zero-catch scientific advice for this species from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). To continue fishing the healthy stocks in the area, such as haddock and monkfish, effective bycatch avoidance measures for cod were needed."

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