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Getting Semi-pelagic Doors in the Water

May 28, 2013
Spring 2013

Fishermen continue to think about ways to be more efficient, reduce fuel consumption, and reduce seabed impacts. Working with Captain Jim Ford on the F/V Lisa Ann II, GMRI's gear team recently tested a new system of semi-pelagic otter trawl doors that has shown exciting results with an average of 10% fuel savings, up to 95% reduced seabed impact, and no effect on total catch. Such advances point the way toward a more long-term sustainable harvest method, and warrant full-scale rollout within the industry.

In general, trawl doors are designed to help keep the net down near the sea floor and to help keep the tow wires spread far enough apart so that the net keeps the right shape during fishing. The semi-pelagic doors are designed to rise only slightly off the bottom (1 to 3 feet) during a tow. Their more efficient design and lack of bottom contact contribute to fuel savings without loss of catch. 

Other members of the New England groundfish fleet have shown a willingness to adopt these new technologies, although the cost of this tool has limited its use on boats. To overcome this obstacle, Coastal Enterprise Inc. (CEI) is working directly with fishermen to provide low-interest loans to purchase these new trawl doors and efficiency improving devices, such as fuel flow meters. The savings in fuel is enough to cover the cost of the monthly loan payment, and after paying off such a loan, fishermen can use these fuel savings to directly increase their profit.

Additional funds from the Walker Foundation and GEARNET program offer a $2,000 subsidy for each fisherman who takes up this loan. This new finance model is already attracting attention, with 18 industry members requesting more information, and word spreading quickly around the docks.

To learn more: Contact Steve Eayrs at