New technology scanning for scallops

New camera technology shows great promise for better monitoring of saucer scallop stocks and the health of seafloor plant and animal communities.

An innovative towed camera system recently trialled in Queensland by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) detected, counted and measured saucer scallops on the sea floor.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the new technology would make an important contribution to the scientific measurement of stock levels.

“We need the best possible estimate of stocks if we want to leave a legacy of a sustainable fishery for our children and grandchildren,” Mr Furner said.

“Leading science is a vital part of making sure we get the sustainability measures right to protect jobs in the commercial and recreational fishing industries into the future.”

DAF Fisheries Biologist Dr Tony Courtney said images from a towed camera system not only showed the number of saucer scallops, but could also be a monitoring tool for seafloor plant and animal communities, including seagrasses, algae, fish and invertebrates.

“Most of the Queensland scallop fishery is in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, so a towed camera survey could potentially be of great use in monitoring the Park’s health,” he said.

“During the trial, the camera system was towed behind the DAF research vessel Tom Marshall and took about 19,000 still images of the seafloor over three days in depths of about 35 metres across parts of Hervey Bay.

“Saucer scallops can be clearly identified on the seafloor and were seen in about 1 per cent of the images, which equates to about 600 scallops per hectare.

“Scientists in the USA are using a similar towed camera system to assess the Atlantic sea scallop stock—the largest scallop fishery in the world.

“Currently, assessment of Queensland scallop stock relies on commercial trawl fisher logbook data and annual trawl surveys, so a towed camera system could be an even more accurate measure of scallop abundance.

“DAF is hoping to develop this technology further to provide solutions across a range of agriculture and fisheries research areas.

“Both AIMS and American researchers are currently developing software that will eventually be capable of detecting and measuring scallops in the images without any need for human examination of the images.

“DAF plans to further refine this technology with support from a mechatronics engineer brought on to provide technology solutions across a range of agriculture and fisheries research areas.”

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