Featured Image Credit: Tom Kleindinst via Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
By Kira Krall
About 20,000 vertical offshore ropes from lobster fisheries stretch across the waters of the New England coast. Most of these lines have to be 2,000 feet long or more in order to reach their quarry at the bottom of the continental shelf. That’s 20,000 opportunities for marine animals, particularly whales, to become endangered and suffer the potentially fatal consequences.
Keenan Ball and Jim Partan at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have had enough. They have developed whale-safe “on-call” lobster fishing gear. The vertical rope and buoy is wound around an enormous weighted spool that sits on the bottom of the ocean.
The weighted spool can hold up to 3,000 feet of line. A timer or an acoustic signal from the fishing boat triggers the unspooling of the line and buoy, which lets the fishermen know exactly where they need to be to pull up their traps. This significantly reduces the amount of time a line is spent in the water, which reduces the chance that a whale or other marine creature will get tangled.
These on-call buoys are a win-win. It allows fishermen to continue and even expand their businesses while protecting whales and other marine life from fatal entanglements. Ball and Partan are currently pursuing a patent on their device. We hope to see this technology in the water soon!
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