Venlo students publish scientific article on fishing

Venlo students publish scientific article on fishing

"We had been warned for the peer review"

24-11-2021 · Background

Fishermen have to destroy part of their bycatch on land, but why don’t we give those fish to the food bank? Students from University College Venlo (UCV) wrote a scientific article on the subject, which was recently published in the journal Foods. That is extraordinary.

Since the EU’s fishing policy has been adapted, fishermen are no longer allowed to throw bycatch in their nets back into the sea. It is taken on land and added to the permitted quota that fishermen are allowed to catch. It serves as a stimulant for more targeted fishing and to reduce bycatch as much as possible. According to ‘Stichting De Noordzee’, this involved 70 thousand metric tons in the Netherlands alone, in 2018.

At the moment, some of the bycatch that is brought to land is destroyed. In the Netherlands, this mainly concerns undersized plaice and sole. Why can’t that be donated to the food bank, the six UCV students wondered. They completed the compulsory research period of six months at the University College.

Firstly, they put together a questionnaire to determine whether food bank customers were even interested in fish. Of the three hundred questionnaires sent out, half were returned. And yes, three-quarters of the respondents were looking forward to fish, also because they hardly ever saw it on the shelves. "So, it would also contribute towards customers’ health," said Swiss second-year student Charlotte Herentrey (20), who was part of the group of six.


After that, the students arranged to interview the stakeholders, such as fishing organisations, food banks and experts. Second-year student Lea Bilić was astonished that she got to speak with high-ranking professionals on the phone, including researchers who are authorities in their field.

"Doing the interviews was the most stressful part," says Bilić. "It is truly a skill. One person held a monologue for three minutes and then wanted to end the conversation. Then, the trick is to keep such a conversation going and still ask the questions that you want answered."

Then the whole pile of information needs to be put on paper. Bilić: "Very challenging and frustrating to create a legible and comprehensible text from that, also because you have to stick to your word count limit."

Then we had the peer review, where other researchers provide a critical assessment of the article. Fortunately, the students had been warned by the PhD candidate who was supervising them, Madhura Rao. And yes, there was a cartload of criticism. Bilić: "One of the three reviewers even advised us to do more interviews, especially with fishermen, but that wasn’t an option. The review cost us two months."

Raising awareness

It soon became clear from the interviews that European legislation is in the way: the undersized fish may not go to the food bank because it is deemed unfit for human consumption. Bilić: "We were disappointed when we heard this, but afterwards we focussed on the explanation of why it isn’t possible. In the hope that it makes various parties think. And that legislation may be adapted in time."

Herentrey: "Maybe we have created some kind of awareness in other researchers who may take over and do follow-up research."

The students who participated in the scientific article: Lea Bilić, Essi Lethinen, Joanna Duwel, Malin Lee, Charlotte Herentrey, Maria Diaz Calixto

Photo Pixabay

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