Daring to make gear more efficient — Seafish

Daring to make gear more efficient

Mike Montgomerie looks back on over two decades working in gear technology.

This month sees me retire as Gear Technologist – a job I have done for Seafish for 22 years, and one I have thoroughly enjoyed.

In that time many things have changed with fishing.  When I joined in 1997 I myself had been at sea working on various fishing vessels. I enjoyed it and caught lots of fish but the industry was on a downer and when I saw the job advertised to work at the Hull flume tank I went for it. It was a big decision to move my family 400 miles from the north of Scotland to the north of Hull but it was the ideal job for me.

Since joining Seafish there have been many changes in fishing over the years with gear technology. In the early 1980s it was about making fishing gear more efficient, and then into the late 80s it was about selective gear such as square mesh panels to save the smaller fish. Later on we were dared to try and make gear even more efficient and it was all about selectivity and discard reduction. It was very interesting to work in the flume tank on the model gear and then taking it to sea for trials. 

I’m immensely proud of having been at the forefront of gear innovation in the UK. The gear database is one significant resource I helped develop. It came about as a follow on from the Basic Fishing Methods booklet, just basic information on fishing gear I produced because there was nowhere else to get it. After a while we introduced the selective side of it to list all the selective gears and a brief bit about them. Now fishermen can look at the drawings and understand what they are and how to make them.

Over the years I have also been involved in delivering training to fishermen from all over Europe – over 600 people have benefitted from the courses in Hull and then in Denmark at the Hirtshals flume tank when the Hull flume tank closed in 2008. At first I found it daunting being with these guys, many who I had been at sea with, who were standing there listening to me tell them about gear. What I realised was you’re pointing things out to them that they can never see at sea. They put their nets over the side of the boat into the water and they have no idea what is happening down there. At the flume tank we gave them a picture of what their gear is doing. What has been great is that I’ve been teaching third generation fishermen. Sons, fathers and grandfathers and I’m proud of that.

One of my highlights in Denmark was when The Danish Institute brought staff and students to look at what we were doing. It turns out they’d never seen some of the gear that I had and they’d been speaking about it for years but never made models like we had. It was quite an accolade to see people from Norway and Denmark and fisheries scientists so interested in what I was doing. 

When I decided to retire people asked me if I knew of a suitable replacement and I couldn’t think of anyone. However, when I saw the list of candidates and saw Dave Warwick’s name on it, I couldn’t have thought of anyone better. I never thought he’d leave fishing. Dave’s knowledge of gear and his knowledge of the industry around the country are probably better than mine when I joined. He’s been fishing around different gears and I would say in a couple of years he’d have been shoving me out of a job anyway! He attended three of my training courses at the flume tank in Denmark. I am so pleased that the work on innovative fishing gear is being continued, especially with someone so knowledgeable, and I wish him and Seafish all the best.

Further info

Vist the gear database