BLOG: Flyshoot Fishing, How Does It Work?

Photo from Jetze van Zwol | Posted on 20 october 2022 | This project is funded by

How many red mullet, red gurnard, and squid swim in the North Sea? Although these are target species of flyshoot fishing, this question cannot yet be answered. Within the project ‘Knowledge Project VISwijzer and Flyshoot Fishing,’ a unique collaboration between three parties: Good Fish, Wageningen Marine Research, and the flyshoot fishermen of Cornelis Vrolijk/Jaczon is conducting research on flyshoot fishing and its target species. One goal within this project is to pave the way for improved management and sustainability assessments of these three fish species through enhanced data collection.

Despite the general impression that fish stocks in the North Sea are doing well, some fish species in the North Sea and the Channel currently do not qualify for a good score on the VISwijzer. At present, species like red gurnard, red mullet, and cuttlefish are labeled RED on the VISwijzer because there is insufficient data on fish stocks and fishing pressure. These species are target species in flyshoot fishing and are considered ‘unmanaged fish species.’ Without an estimation of fishing pressure and fish stock, sustainable harvesting of these species cannot yet be discussed.

But what is flyshoot, actually?

Flyshoot is a fishing method originally developed in Denmark and Iceland. Since 2005, it has been increasingly used in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. In 2022, the Dutch flyshoot fleet consists of 20 vessels. In the flyshoot method, a pair of warps is deployed in a circle and pulled towards the ship. The warps, slowly dragged along the seabed, create clouds of sediment, causing the fish located between the warps to swim along in the direction of the vessel. Eventually, the fish end up in the net, which is then brought on board. Because the fishing net is relatively short in the water, the fish are brought on board with very few damages and in good quality. You can see how this fishing method works in the animation below.

Mixed Fishing

Flyshoot fishing is a form of mixed fishing. This means that, in addition to the target species of red mullet, red gurnard, and squid, the fishing process also catches other commercially valuable fish. For the target species of this fishery, the EU has not yet implemented any management measures because they were not previously of commercial importance to Northern Europe. However, due to the increase in these target species in our waters as a result of climate change and the growth of flyshoot fishing in recent years, the importance of sustainable management, possibly through quotas, is increasing. But this is not straightforward, given the limited availability of scientific data on these target species.

Unique Collaboration

In 2019, the Dutch flyshoot fishing industry expressed its willingness to participate in data collection for unquoted target species within the project ‘Knowledge Project VISwijzer and Flyshoot Fishing.’ This project is carried out through a collaboration between Good Fish, Wageningen Marine Research, and the fishermen of Cornelis Vrolijk/Jaczon. Data collection has already begun. This initiative is expected to contribute significantly to the research on the status of fish stocks of red gurnard, red mullet, and squid in the North Sea. More information about this project can be found on our Flyshoot project page.

Want to learn more about this project? Read more about this unique collaboration here!