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A forward-looking project on sustainability to take care of whales. This was the goal of the research that took place in southern New England last week. A collaboration between the National Marine Fisheries Service, its Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and local trap and pot lobster and crab fishermen to solve whale entanglement.

About 30 lobster and crab boats have been gathering in federal waters of the Massachusetts and South Island Restricted Area from early February to the end of April. As outlined by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, the goal of the research is to use advanced technology, such as buoys and acoustic release systems, to reduce the risk of entanglement and minimize the impact on marine life.

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This is how the National Fisherman newspaper reported the details of the project, in which different trawl designs were used. Every participating fisherman was allowed to use 10 nets, using different designs activated by acoustic signals.

“It’s been nice because a couple of years ago fishermen would say ropeless would never work,” said Henry Milliken, a supervisory research fishery biologist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, for National Fisherman. “Now they say it will be the technology that keeps them on the water.”

Milliken explained that for the southern New England research, equipment was provided on request to fishermen through the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Equipment Library. It currently has about 245 pieces of equipment in total.

Some of the test projects

Thus, the equipment library provided fishermen in the closed area with emerging EdgeTech equipment and SMELTS inflatable bag systems.

The first of these systems, EdgeTech, is a Cordless System that uses a rectangular cage with a division. With a coiled rope on one side and an acoustic release mechanism on the other side, when the command signal is initiated, the acoustic release mechanism is activated. This process causes the cage to rise as the rope is tightened, facilitating the retrieval of fish and whale entanglements.

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Another is the Lobster Raft model from SMELTS (Sea Mammal Education Learning Technology Society) which uses an acoustic release system. Therefore, the system activates a compressed air cylinder to inflate a buoy, which pulls the trap to the surface for retrieval.

Finally, among them is virtual gear tagging, fishermen in the closed area use EdgeTech Trap Tracker. This is a system based on surface GPS on tablets and phones that provides info about the positions and orientations of fishing gear to be displayed.

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