Beam Trawl - Sumwing


In this fishing method a beam trawling the beam is replaced with 'wing' style of beam without any beam shoes at the ends. The aero foil shaped beam creates lift as it is towed through the water similar to an aeroplane wing. It is designed to skim about 600mm above the seabed with a standard beam trawl net behind it. This gear is often combined with the pulse trawl system.

Vessel towing two beam trawls along the seabed
Beam trawls towed through the water

Environmental impact

The Sumwing has been developed over many years to replace the traditional heavy beam in a beam trawl to help reduce its seabed impact, reduce discards and reduce fuel consumption. The sumwing style beam trawl can be as much as 25% lighter than an equivalent traditional beam trawl. The sumwing is usually combined with pulse trawl gear. Despite the positives of the decreased fuel consumption and decreased seabed impact when using the sumwing gear there is some controversy over its true impacts on the seabed and marine environment when combined with the electric pulse fishing. More information on this can be found at

Other information

This fishing method was first used in Holland in 1992, with the Dutch and Belgian trawlers experimenting with it, and further developing it to where it is today. It is still operated on an ‘experimental’ basis with only a limited number of vessels permitted to use the pulse system. It is a technologically advanced adaptation of beam trawling where the tickler chains and chain mat of the beam trawl are removed and replaced with trailing electrodes. The removal of the tickler chain and chain mat vastly reduces the seabed impact of the trawl gear, and reduces the fuel consumption of the vessel by about 40%.

A dedicated power cable from the vessel to the trawl transmits the electric current to the electrodes. The electrodes then send a mild electric pulse into the seabed to stimulate the fish to rise up and be caught by the trawl, with minimum sea bed disturbance. A similar system is being trialled in the North Sea shrimp beam trawl fishery. Many of the vessels using this system have also adopted the Sumwing or a similar shaped beam, to replace the beam and beam shoes, further reducing their seabed impact and fuel consumption. The Sumwing works on a principle of an aerofoil cross section to get the gear onto the seabed and maintain its position just above the seabed, with the standard beam trawl or a trawl and electrodes (pulse gear) trailed behind. This gear is in the region of 25% the weight of a standard beam trawl.


Gear classification

Main target species (UK)

  • Dover Sole
  • Flats
  • Plaice

Possible bycatch

  • Dab
  • Juveniles of the target species
  • Plaice