Shrimpers and biologists surprised the experts last summer by using modified trawl nets that drastically reduced the amount of popular fish caught and discarded.

The nets were fitted with a variety of devices beyond what is already required, including “spooker cones” that scare away fish before they enter the net, additional escape openings called fisheyes, and tailbags with larger mesh. The tailbag is where the catch collects at the end of the net.

The test trawls gathered 77 tons of fish and shrimp. The most effective test nets were fitted with two fisheyes and a tailbag with a mesh width of 1 7/8 inches. That net caught 211 pounds of shrimp and 183 pounds of fish.

Brown called that a stunning result because bycatch is typically triple the amount of shrimp. Some estimates put bycatch at four to five times the shrimp haul.

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