Keeping up with today’s technological advancements can be overwhelming on multiple levels. Many commercial fishing operations haven’t prioritized the adoption of new tools or technologies on account of the disconnect between the capabilities of certain innovations that represent how actual fishermen will be able to use them. Why would someone who has worked in the same industry for decades change their day-to-day process and utilize a tool that doesn’t seem like it was created for them? 

Despite this discrepancy, utilizing new technology can help save money, time, and increase safety. While some parts of the industry have switched to cutting-edge technology to better assist sustainability and safety on and off the water, many vessels still operate with inefficient tech products. Due to the different fisheries and geography, it is almost impossible to have innovations be a one-size-fits-all situation across the country.  

In 2021, the Seafood Harvesters of America, along with NOAA Fisheries scientists, Alaska Ocean Cluster, and a few other organizations, held a survey called Technological Advancement in Our Fisheries: Innovation Priorities and a Path Forward to target members of the fishing Industry to help identify and better understand technology priorities and needs. By using the survey data, they were able to look for common needs across all regions and gear types that technology could address at this survey’s scale in hopes of guiding technology investments and developments in the commercial fishing industry. Hopefully, that will also be providing business opportunities for developing products that many in fishing communities could use.

The survey results concluded that fish-finding equipment, weather and ocean monitoring, bycatch reduction, and communication and data network systems were all the top priorities in the eyes of vessel managers, crew, and captains.

Noelle Yochum, who previously led the Conservation Engineering group at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center at NOAA Fisheries, helped organize the survey and has spent much of her career within the industry focused on collaborative research and technology. She’ll be the moderator for the Fishing for the Future: Innovations Progressing the Industry session at the Pacific Marine Expo (PME), which will showcase fishermen and other industry professionals who have implemented innovations on their vessels and some of the companies creating the latest products. She looks forward to sharing more insights about the survey and the 2022 workshop that came from the results as well as sorting out the disconnects that exist between technology providers and commercial fishermen.

“This has been more than just a project over the past few years of my career in the commercial fishing industry,” Yochum told National Fisherman. “It has meant keeping fishermen safe out on the water and helping connect them to the innovators making the new technology that could be used on their vessels. There can be a disconnect between the manufacturers and the owner and operators in commercial fishing. Because the industry is so diverse, it can be hard for innovators to think through all the different ways in which their products will be used while fishing, so it is important to help both parties make these connections. We have brought tech developers and funders out on the vessels to see firsthand how these fisheries work. It is very crucial to creating well-structured products for such a rugged and intricate industry.”  

Through this session, Yochum will help address the obstacles for integrating innovations among the commercial fishing fleets in many regions of the U.S. She'll also help explore what it means to identify and adopt successful technologies, outline the needs and barriers to technology development and funding in commercial fisheries, and identify opportunities to build long-term capacity for technology development. 

Additionally, Brent Paylor, Captain of the C/P Island Enterprise for Trident Seafoods, will join Yochum as a session speaker. Paylor has spent over four decades on the water with about 32 years of experience in the wheelhouse, mainly targeting Wild Alaska Pollock and Pacific whiting. He has been directly involved in testing novel technology, focusing on promoting efficiency and sustainability within fisheries.  

In hopes of making further connections between commercial fishermen and innovators, you can join us at the session on November 8, beginning at 12:00 pm. Learn more about Fishing for the Future: Innovations Progressing the Industry session. 

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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