First-of-a-Kind Fishing Vessel Gently Vacuums Shellfish off the Bottom

Arctic Pearl in port
Image courtesy Ava Ocean

Published Nov 27, 2022 9:42 PM by Gemini News

This boat is packed with new technology that could be the start of a whole new method of bottom fishing. Now Arctic Pearl, which is the world's first and only fishing vessel of its kind, is heading for the Barents Sea to pick a rare delicacy - the cockle.

The ship is a former seismic vessel which has been converted into a fishing vessel, and it is thus the only one of its kind so far. The boat is the first in over 30 years to be allowed to harvest the rich cockle deposits in Norwegian waters. The seabed harvester installed on board is completely new and cannot be compared to other fishing gear in use today: It can best be described as a shell picker which, through a selective water pump system, gently and contactlessly picks seafood from the seabed. The shells are lifted into a harvesting basket that floats over the seabed where by-catch and smaller shells are sorted out before it is lifted to the surface.

The world's gentlest bottom fishing boat?

Because of the special technology, developed by Ava Ocean and SINTEF, the Norwegian authorities have granted a five-year test quota for the species cockleshell. During this period, Ava Ocean wants to prove to the world that it is possible to exploit more and more of the many food resources found on the seabed, without damaging the vulnerable ecosystems in the sea.

Today, there are no real alternatives to dredging, which is the most widespread way of fishing for benthic organisms today. Bottom dredging is a fishing method that is very destructive and banned in Norway and several other countries.

Arctic Pearl will now not only start a new fishery for a seafood delicacy that few of us are familiar with, but will also do painstaking and careful work to document the shell picker's impact on the environment and fauna in collaboration with the Institute of Marine Research.

"The goal is to be able to document that we have a tool that can not only pick seafood efficiently from the seabed, but also that it does not damage the ecosystem in which they live or the recruitment of new shells over time. It is only then that it is possible to develop a long-term sustainable fishery, from both an environmental and economic perspective," says Øystein Tvedt, CEO of Ava Ocean.

This article appears courtesy of Gemini News and is translated from the Norwegian; it may be found in its original form here.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.