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Reducing Salmon Bycatch in the Alaska Pollock Trawl Fishery: A pilot project using lights


Minimizing bycatch is an important component of modern, profitable, and sustainable Alaska fisheries. The purpose-built Pisces bycatch reduction light from SafetyNet Technologies was tested in the nets of three Alaska pollock trawl vessels in the summer of 2022. The project took place between June and August 2022, where approximately 52 multi-day trips were completed with more than 35 million pounds of pollock harvested. Approximately 161 Chinook and 6,183 chum salmon were incidentally harvested. Results indicate a slight correlation between use of the lights and bycatch reduction. Results are not statistically significant. Further research is needed and recommended to confirm light technology as a viable bycatch reduction tool. Although the research team would have preferred stronger results, this project is considered a success. The $100k project was relatively inexpensive and consistent with the model of rapid experimentation to develop solutions to industry challenges. The technology survived difficult working conditions, was described as “easy to use,” and gathered valuable information that can be used to support further deployments and engineering refinements. The project is an example of the Denali Commission partnering with legacy industry and a technology startup to test the viability of novel technology unlikely to be funded exclusively by industry. In addition to lights, active excluders, trawl modifications, increased information sharing, ecosystem modeling, and new operating practices offer the potential to reduce bycatch.

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