A seine net is likely the oldest type of commercial fishing tool. There are indications that the seine net was used as far back as the Stone Age. Historical evidence suggests that it was employed by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and a seine net is mentioned in the Bible. Native Americans used them also, with stones to weight the bottom and light gourds, wood or cork serving as floats for the top.
Seine Net Designs A seine net is woven from twine or rope with mesh openings appropriate to the size of fish to be caught. Used in fresh or salt water seine nets are deployed from a boat or from land.
There are two primary designs of seine nets, with many variations. The net can be straight, with or without a protruding pouch to hold caught fish. These nets have weights along the bottom edge and floats across the top, so the net will hang upright in the water.
Purse seine nets are round and are cast into the water. There are rings along the edge of the net, and when the time is right, a “drawstring” gathers it and the trapped fish into a pouch.
Seine Net Advances In the 1950s, technological advances made seine net fishing easier, allowing larger catches for commercial enterprises. A device called a power block was created to gather the purse seine nets and lift them from the water. In the same decade, another means to pull in the seine net was developed. It was rolled onto a large drum in the back of the boat. The drum was easier and safer to use, and required less people.
Scandals Surrounding Seine Net Fishing The fact that a seine net catches all fish in the surrounding water, whether they were the objective, or not, was a disadvantage. The fishermen did not intentionally catch these fish. As a matter of fact, they often did not have the licensing for them. It cost them valuable time to weed out the unwanted fish, and most fish died in the process.
The problem was first noted earlier in this century, when groups of fishermen would use a seine net to eke out a humble living in lakes. As they caught unwanted fish, the breeding population was depleted. The problem of accidental catches was brought to the public eye when a scandal erupted over dolphins caught in seine nets for tuna.
Public awareness developed, and people were demanding something be done about the dolphins, sea turtles, porpoises, and other fish being harmed. As the fishing enterprises did not want to catch these other animals any more than those protesting wanted them to, solutions were sought. Seine net suppliers developed remedies included a trap door that allowed sea turtles to escape, and then a device that emitted a pinging noise to frighten porpoises away.
Benefits of Seine Nets On a positive note, these nets have provided the world with food and lucrative employment as far back as the beginning of time. As the industry grew, there have been commendable efforts to comply with ethical standards. There are also uses for seine nets that are beneficial to ecological balances in nature. For example, a seine net is sometimes used in small ponds to protect various species of fish from predators.
Having stood the tests of time, seine net fishing is an amazing combination of old world practice and cutting edge technology. Doubtless one that will still be used centuries from now.