What is a Seine Net?

Unless you are a commercial fisherman, or have extensive knowledge of the fishing industry, you likely read the term seine net and are left wondering what exactly a seine net is. While you might assume that a seine net is a type of fishing net, and you would be right in this assumption, there is more to a seine net than simply being a fancy net to catch fish. Seine nets can be a very effective means of catching a large number of fish in a relatively short period of time. A seine net is deployed vertically in the water, as opposed to horizontally on top of the water like regular fishing nets, and this is what makes the seine net special.


Regular fishing nets are often deployed at the top of the water and then settle down into the water, catching fish that happened to be underneath the net when deployed. Seine nets are set out vertically, with weights on one side to pull the net all the way to the bottom of the body of water, when possible, and floats on the other to keep the other side of the net at the surface. The net is maneuvered, either by hand or by fishing vessel, depending on the size of the net and the expected catch, in order to push the fish in a large region of water into a gradually smaller and smaller area, until they are all caught in the net and can be dragged on board a fishing boat or onto the shore of a nearby beach.


The ability of the seine net to gradually constrict the fish in a large body of water into a small enough space to be caught all at once is the greatest power of the seine net. This may be why seine nets have been in use for so long, civilizations the world over have been using seine nets for their fishing expeditions for at least 5000 years. They were woven from whatever materials were locally available, usually flax or wild grasses that were easily collected in large quantities. Stones were used for weights and small pieces of wood for floats, creating a functional seine net. Some civilizations, such as the Māori tribe native to New Zealand, created seine nets that were as large as a kilometer long. These nets were so large that they needed large canoes and hundreds of men to deploy the net and bring in the catch.


In short, the seine net is a remarkable fishing tool that has been used the world over for millennia, by a wide variety of cultures and peoples. The concept works so well that even today commercial fishing vessels use variants of seine nets to collect huge numbers of fish in much less time than regular fishing would require. By reducing the amount of time and effort that it takes to collect large numbers of fish, more people can be fed faster, which is important since fishing is a primary food source for nearly half the world’s population.

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