In October 2019 Skadia Technologies partnered with Altair Fishing, Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, the Ministry of Primary Industries (Fisheries New Zealand), the New Zealand Department of Conservation and the Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust to run a two-stage pilot of the underwater bait setter in the New Zealand longline fishery.

Extensive scientific trials have already proven that the Bait Setter stops petrels and albatrosses seeing and diving for baits when set behind the boat. During these trials in the South Atlantic, seabird scientist Graham Robertson saw that by releasing baited hooks out of sight and underwater, the visual cues for seabirds are removed. “They just lose interest and fly away” he said.

Altair Fishing crew operating the Underwater Bait Setter.

In late 2019 the Bait Setter was fitted to a New Zealand fishing boat owned by Altair Fishing for final operational testing. The aim was to use the Bait Setter in normal fishing operations over an extended period so the crew could test the ease of use, safety and reliability of the device.

The first stage of the pilot ran for six weeks from October to December with a Skadia technician on board. Overall, the crew and owner of the vessel were happy with the performance and operation of theBait Setter and prepared to continue using it in the second stage.

The second stage will involve a more extended period of fishing, ideally in winter off the southern tip of the South Island, to ensure the crew are delighted with the Bait Setter in even the harshest conditions. It will also include periods with independent observers monitoring the machine and the response of seabirds when other seabird deterrents are removed.

At the end of Stage 1, the Bait Setter was removed from the vessel for a software upgrade and to reconfigure hydraulics to run off the main engine. At the time of writing, the start of Stage 2 has been delayed due to the Covid19 travel and essential work restrictions in place in New Zealand. The plan is to begin Stage 2 when travel and work restrictions allow, and a suitable opportunity is found to refit the Bait Setter and go fishing.

Skadia Technologies recognises the generous contribution of all partner organisations toward the success of this work, and thanks them for their patience with the unforeseen delay.