In spring of 2016, the Spanish trawler Rio Caxil began trials on a package of Scanmar technology and the results have been impressive

Built in Nodosa, Marin in Spain in 2004, the 50.5m Rio Caxil is an impressive looking fishing vessel similar to the typical and very popular ‘Grand Sol’ design with a forward wheelhouse and long working deck leading back to a stern ramp for hauling the bag on board.

A freezer stern trawler that undertakes extensive fishing trips of between 50 and 80 days, depending on seasonally worked areas of operation and variety of fisheries being targeted, the vessel is powered by a Wartsilla 1,400hp main engine.

Employing trawl gear manufactured by Galfood and complimented with Injector trawl doors (with Viking doors in reserve), the Vigo-based vessel has per-trip quotas for a diverse range of fish species including: Halibut – 200 tonnes; Red Fish (Gallineta) – 230 tonnes; Skate (Raya) – 50 tonnes.

However, the amounts and volume of quota can vary and it depends on how much quota the ship owner can source for leasing or buying – meaning, depending on availability, the amount allowable for Rio Caxil can vary greatly from trip to trip and season to season, but the aim is to catch approximately 500 tonnes overall per trip to return home to Vigo with, or occasionally to the port of Cangas.

As with most countries, fish prices can fluctuate greatly from month to month but based on this year’s trend, the average prices for Rio Caxil’s landings are: Halibut – approx. €6/kg; Red Fish – approx. €2.50/kg; and Skate approx. €4/kg.

“Now I can immediately see when something is not right – such as a trawl door falling on its side while we are towing – and I can easily fix it” – Roberto Sotelo, skipper of Rio Caxil 

With such long trips at sea part of Rio Caxil’s normal operations, it is understandable that skipper Roberto Sotelo has a large crew of experienced personnel on board – which, in this case, includes no less than a vessel compliment of 22 men comprised of two for the bridge; four for the engine room; two for the galley and 12 deckhands.

Technology upgrade

After previously relying on the basic Scanmar HC4 trawl door sensors coupled with a standard trawl sounder system, the installation and trails of a new suite of state-of-the-art Scanmar package represented a sharp learning curve, with pleasing results for Rio Caxil and skipper Sotelo.

This technology upgrade did not come without its challenges in resolving some minor configuration problems but, after Scanmar experts worked hand-in-hand with the Rio Caxil team, the new suite of SS4 trawl door sensors, SS4 Catch system and the highly popular TrawlEye system are all bringing increased performance benefits for the vessel – particularly in the Red Fish fishery, with the Halibut fishery yet to be fully tested to see the new opportunities from better data monitoring and reporting from the new systems.

Enhanced performance

  • Door sensors

Rio Caxil skipper Roberto Sotelo says that already he can see many advantages with the new trawl door sensors and in particular with the new addition of the ‘angle’ functionality.

“Now I can immediately see when something is not right – such as a trawl door falling over on its side – and I can fix it.

“And I can easily correct any problems with the doors by using the winches and thereby save the towing time being completely wasted — in the past I would not have had the information and I would have been unaware that I needed to take action,” he said, adding that now he is also better equipped to know that the trawl gear is fishing in the correct position and shape which obviously helps to improve the vessel’s catch efficiency.

  • TrawlEye

Regarding Scanmar’s TrawlEye system, Roberto has now had the chance to use it for Red Fish – a 400m-depth fishery – but not yet for Halibut which is a more demanding 800 to 1,300m depth fishery.

“But so far, in the Red Fish operations, I could clearly see through the TrawlEye to know when fish entered the net, the position in the trawl opening, and I can easily adjust the trawl opening to be more efficient – for example if I see that the fish is located between 1 to 5m and it has an opening of 5m, I can modify the mouth opening to be more efficient,” he said, adding that the improved and increased lifetime of all of the sensor batteries is now second to none in their superior performance.

  • Catch sensors

Roberto Sotelo has been pleasantly surprised with the high quality of the catch sensor data monitoring.

For the Red Fish fishery, if the fish are located in a high density shoals, the cod end can fill up quite fast and, although high volume catches are always welcomed by fishermen everywhere, there is a point where too much volume can reduce the quality of the individual fish due to impact pressure in the trawl’s cod end.

The onboard processing facility is also a factor in this calculation as the aim is to catch enough to keep this processing line busy, but not overloaded so that excess fish would have to be held in bulk awaiting processing.

“Therefore having accurate catch sensors means that I can watch how much volume is traveling back through the bag to the cod end at all times.

“Approximately ten tonnes is the ideal volume – both to maintain quality and to maximise the capability of the processing line.

“And so, with the Catch sensor located in the correct place in the trawl, I can know when the exact ten-tonne target has been reached and it’s time to haul,” he said, adding that another benefit is that if the fish are not in the area that the vessel is trawling, he doesn’t have to wait to see the result of a six-hour tow because the catch sensor will keep reporting how much, or how little, fish is coming into the net at all times, again saving time and fuel by not wasting towing time in an unproductive area.