New technology developed with Cornish fishermen could radically transform how bycatch of marine wildlife is documented on board fishing vessels.

Sardine ringnetter

Funded by Defra and led by Cefas, Insight360 is an intuitive and cost-effective tool designed to help fishers tackle bycatch, particularly cetacean bycatch, in their fisheries.

Currently being developed with commercial fishermen working off the South West coast, the technology fuses the insights of the fishing industry with machine learning to offer a transformative approach to monitoring that is specifically adapted to suit the realities of working in a marine environment, and fishing with different gear types.

Insight360 combines voice recognition and video information to deliver real-time insight and create a 360-degree view of what’s happening at sea during a bycatch event, that continuously improves over time.

Refined with fishermen, the technology removes the need to manually review and add notes to footage, offering instead a way for skippers and crews to train a monitoring system to automatically recognise and record bycatch events as they happen.

The complexity of the environment in which fishing takes place means that ‘non-target’ marine wildlife, including cetacean species like dolphins and porpoises, are sometimes accidentally caught in fishing nets as bycatch. Difficult to avoid, bycatch is distressing and damaging for both animals and fishermen.

A global problem, it is the single greatest threat posed to cetaceans. Learning more about where and why bycatch happens has the potential to help address the phenomenon and prevent it from happening in the first place, say the team behind Insight360.

Alasdair Davies, technical director at Arribada, the non-profit tech company leading on technical development of the tool, says: “Insight360 presents an exciting and transformative development in at-sea monitoring of fisheries, with the potential to increase our understanding of where and why bycatch happens through the integration of novel technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to unlock new capabilities for fishermen to share their story at sea.”

Gus Caslake, industry engagement manager for the South West with Seafish, and chair of the Cornish Sardine Management Association, added: “Our members were keen to be involved in Insight360 to assist in the bycatch mitigation work going on around the coast, and demonstrate how the knowledge of fishermen can support the development of innovative monitoring technologies.

“Providing a platform to test Insight360 at sea during commercial fishing operations will support the design of a system that meets the requirements of UK fisheries, in terms of the practicalities of fishing, the environment, and the needs of policy.”

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