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Episode 9 - Sustainable Seas

On the next episode, screening 14 May 2016 at 7pm on TV ONE:


Sustainable Seas


Karl Warr has loved fishing since his grandfather took him out with a fly-rod when he was a boy.


‘I’ve been enchanted by the ocean ever since.’


Karl has been commercial fishing out of Napier for nearly 20 years and what he most likes is that it gives him time to think. Lately he has been reflecting about how fishermen work – and that has led to a breakthrough invention. 


‘When I started fishing there was the initial thrill at seeing a lot of fish, but after a while I’d look down at the deck and think, wow, look at all these lives I’ve taken in the name of gathering food,’ he says.


So Karl has changed the design of his fishing net to increase the survival rate for undersized fish, allowing him to fish in a more sustainable way.


Gaps in a rectangular steel cage attached to the open end of his net allow smaller fish to exit unharmed before the net comes to the surface.


Conventional nets have escape holes, he says, but many undersized fish get trapped in the end of the net and are hauled to the surface, damaging their swim bladders in the process. Even if they are then released as undersized, they don’t survive. 


‘Now, with the cage, I’ve set the gaps for the minimum size gurnard I want, the small fish exit through the holes, and anything bigger stays in there.’


Karl’s ultimate goal is to not kill a single fish he hasn’t put on his shopping list.


And he says the cage works. Fishing with just a net, Karl’s catches were sometimes up to 50 per cent small, undesirable fish.  But using the cage, the small fish make up just five per cent. 


‘The great thing about the cage is we’re leaving these small fish to grow and fatten up into next year’s stock.’


Karl and his wife Sarah run their business together. Karl tries to get out on the water three or four days a week, and Sarah deals with marketing and the customers. 


They sell direct to local fish shops like Tangaroa Seafoods near the port in Ahuriri and restaurants like The Westshore Beach Inn. Westshore manager Jeremy Bayliss loves the sustainability story, and says his customers also love knowing the fish is fresh.


‘Unless its Karl and Sarah’s fish we don’t sell it,’ Jeremy says. ‘So last winter during a storm, when Karl couldn’t get out on the water, we had a 10-day period where we didn’t sell fish. And it was great to be able to tell people why.’


The Ministry for Primary Industries is taking a keen interest in Karl’s innovation, and local fisheries staff plan to gather data on its effectiveness.


But Karl’s not resting on his laurels. He’s got a Mark Two version of the cage in development at Napier’s Ramage Sheetmetals.  And if the current version is analogue, the new one will be fully digital.


‘The next phase is to automate screening fish on the sea floor, selecting 100% of what we want to take home,’ Karl says. Scanners on the cage will identify the fish he wants. ‘We’ll draft off the unwanted ones, just like you’d draft sheep.’


For more about Karl’s sustainable fishing net, visit:


To email Karl:


For more about the workshop building Karl’s cage, visit:


For more about Westshore Beach Inn, visit:


For more about Tangaroa Seafoods in Ahuriri, visit:


For more about the National Aquarium in Napier, visit:





Dan Henry



Richard Williams


Field Sound

Don Paulin


Editor & Colourist

Mike Townsend


Sound Mixer

Ian Leslie



Stephen Gallagher


Post Production Manager

Bailey Palmer


Production Manager

Robyn Best



Vivienne Jeffs


Network Executive

Jude Callen


Director & Associate Producer

Dan Henry



Julian O’Brien