New ropeless fishing technology, which can help save whales, tested off Newfoundland

You may use an audio signal to locate traps.

A more than four-decade-old desire of scientist Michael Moore was realized last month when a test deployment of ropeless fishing equipment was made off the coast of Newfoundland. In a way, the test brought those fantasies home.

Moore, the head of the Marine Mammal Center at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States, said the late Newfoundland marine researcher Jon Lien had a significant impact on his career. Over the course of his career, Lien rescued hundreds of whales who were imprisoned in fishing nets using the methods he invented.

Moore said that four decades ago, while driving through Newfoundland, Lien first informed him of the possibility of ropeless fishing gear in protecting whales.

In a subsequent interview, Moore referred to Lien as having "his hope and his prophecy come true 43 years later." It's pretty unique,

Although ropeless fishing technology is still in its infancy, scientists and fishermen have great expectations that it will benefit fishermen and prevent whales from becoming entangled in fishing ropes.

The North Atlantic right whale, which is endangered and only has an estimated 336 left in the world, is the target of efforts to implement the new fishing techniques.

In 2020, Moore published a research that claimed fishing gear entanglements were to blame for 85% of right whale fatalities between 2010 and 2015. Researchers like Moore are optimistic that the widespread use of ropeless gear will reduce entanglements and help the species recover.

Crab and lobster traps were set last month just outside St. John's harbor and off the shore of Harbour Breton with the use of acoustic technology created by Jasco Applied Sciences. A collaboration between Jasco, the non-profit Sea Mammal Education Learning Technology Society with headquarters in Washington, and the Miawpukek First Nation's commercial fishing division led to the start of the test run.

Fishermen may let the traps free and then locate them again using an acoustic signal, according to John Moloney, engineering manager at Jasco. When it's time to raise the traps to the surface, fishermen may deflate inflatable bladders that are built inside the devices.

Long ropes that float vertically in the sea tie traditional traps to buoys, and passing whales can become entangled in the lines. There are less threats in the water when there aren't any lengthy fishing ropes.

Whales can also become caught in "ghost gear," which are enormous net tangles that have fallen loose and are let to float aimlessly through the sea.

According to Moloney, ropeless traps will recover considerably more quickly than conventional equipment. He also emphasized that if a trap is misplaced, it won't be fastened to potentially dangerous ropes.

According to Moloney, Jasco technology is also being evaluated in the US. Moore, who is a member of the Ropeless Consortium, is involved in several of those testing.

Both Moloney and Moore acknowledged that the price of ropeless equipment now prevents its broad usage, but Moloney predicted that Jasco's technology will lower the cost. Additionally, he claimed that traditional equipment is often only utilized for one season, but ropeless traps may survive for roughly ten.

Ropeless technology must also overcome administrative obstacles. According to Moloney, the federal Fisheries Department has supported its research but has not yet decided how to govern it.

Nevertheless, he believes that technology is progressing apace.

In ten years, Moloney said, "people would simply look at you like you're odd when you start talking about fishing with ropes." It will undoubtedly replace rope fishing.
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