The Omega Gauge Makes Waves
As of the 1st of September of this year the omega gauge has been rolled out for the purpose of measuring fishing nets to determine mesh size.
This replaced the well established practice of measuring the nets using the wedge gauge that was pushed by Sea Fishery inspectors into the actual net.
In the United Kingdom, France and Spain, there have been critical remarks made by both net makers and indeed fishermen as to the accuracy of the measurements which are now being taken by the Omega Gauges
In some cases, it has been suggested by UK sources, that there is a 9% deviation. Effectively, a net that one would have expected to measure at 100mm is being measured at 91mm.
With mesh sizes being such a critical feature of conservation measures, any suggestion of inaccurate readings is not to be welcomed.
The issue would appear to centre around the amount of force that each and every gauge is instructed to apply in order to take a measurement. It would appear that the force being set is insufficient to get an accurate reading. When the force is applied during the operation of measuring a mesh size, once the pre-determined force is reached, the exact opening of the gauge is measured by an on board computer. The device stores the individual measurement.
When a fisheries inspector is finished his or her inspection, the Omega gauge displays the number of measurements and the average mesh size are shown.
In the Netherlands, it had been anticipated that they would introduce the omega gauge far in advance of the 1st September deadline. However, after initial trials led to many complaints by the fishing industry, it was delayed until the mandatory deadline of the 1st September.
The Department and the Sea Fishery Protection Authority had indicated that an introductory period would be granted while the device was rolled out.
Of course, the position in Ireland is somewhat different insomuch as unlike many of our other European Union member states, Ireland deals with fishery offences by way of criminal sanctions.
Fishermen who are found to have mesh sizes, 9% or 10% lower than what is recorded in the log book are instantaneously liable to face a prosecution in the Circuit Court. Added to that, the number of biologically sensitive areas that have very strict rules on the mesh size that can be deployed, this can only add to what is already a disastrous year for fishermen.
A previous headline in this publication described the high diesel low fish prices as the perfect storm. The seas have just got a little bit rougher!
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