Independent evaluation of Precision Seafood Harvesting

Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) was a 7-year PGP programme. Its aim was to supply higher quality, higher value fish, and help ensure the sustainability of our fish stocks. The programme finished in 2019. Read about the results of an independent evaluation of the programme.

Background to the PSH programme

Trawling has been used around the world for more than 100 years to bulk harvest fish. However, current trawl nets can damage fish, which reduces the quality and value of seafood products. They can also capture undersized species and other by-catch.

In 2005, Plant and Food Research started developing a trawl net which would:

  • target fish species more precisely, reducing by-catch
  • allow fish to swim freely within the net
  • increase the value of the catch.

The PSH programme aimed to develop this technology further. The result is a revolutionary net known as the Tiaki modular harvesting system, which lets undersized fish escape. It lands fish in better condition so that:

  • fish that are kept will get a premium price
  • fish that are released back to the sea have a better chance of survival.

Outcomes and benefits of PSH evaluated

As part of its monitoring process for PGP programmes, MPI commissioned an independent evaluation of the PSH programme. This looked at:

  • outcomes and benefits
  • programme execution
  • any learnings.

Precision Seafood Harvesting programme evaluation report [PDF, 1.7 MB]

What the evaluation found

  • PSH has revolutionised the commercial bulk harvesting of fish.
  • The programme was well managed.
  • Fish harvested by the Tiaki system are in better condition than fish caught in traditional trawl nets. Some species are the same quality as line-caught fish. Fish caught by the Tiaki system also have a longer shelf life.
  • Fish caught using the Tiaki system earn a premium, and catch value increased by $7 million to $22 million during the programme. The potential economic impact of PSH for the bulk fishing sector in New Zealand and around the world is “considerable and should not be undervalued”. 
  • Catch rates are better when fishers use the Tiaki system.
  • The Tiaki system allows longer tows, which significantly boosts productivity.
  • There is a “considerable amount of commitment by skippers” towards the Tiaki system. Many skippers have changed their fishing behaviours and practices to achieve the best quality catch, gaining new market opportunities. 
  • PSH enables sustainability gains which haven’t been fully realised yet.
  • PSH is leading to unexpected positive outcomes. An example of this is the ability to store fish at depth, which has efficiency and health and safety benefits.
  • PSH reduced its scope so that it could focus on meeting the regulatory approvals required for the Tiaki system to be used commercially.

Report recommendations

The evaluation’s recommendations include:

  • continuing to invest in Tiaki system technology to support wider use
  • maintaining the relationships between MPI, Moana New Zealand, Sanford Ltd, and Sealord Group to improve cooperation on future regulatory approvals
  • ensuring that all stakeholders effectively participate at the start of, and during, programmes
  • continuing to develop mechanisms to handle fish landed by the Tiaki system
  • further development of the Tiaki brand.
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