Developing “Whale-safe” Fishing Gear

We are working with the non-profit engineering firm SMELTS (Sea Mammal Education Learning Technology Society) to help them develop “ropeless” fishing gear that can be used to fish for American lobster, Jonah crab, and sink gillnet fisheries in New England and Maritime Canadian waters. Ropeless gear would eliminate the vertical lines (rope) that connect trap, pot, and gillnet gear on the bottom of the ocean to buoys at the water’s surface. These lines are responsible for entangling whales, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

We are helping SMELTS build capacity for this work, interface with regulators and marine scientists, and develop ground-up support among fishermen for experimental use of the gear and feedback to SMELTS engineers for design improvements that will help the gear “fit” with the Northwest Atlantic’s unique and widely variable fishing conditions. Blue Planet Strategies and SMELTS are also working cooperatively with several other ropeless gear designers to develop testing and experimental use of their gear designs, because we believe there is likely more than one solution to the entanglement threat.

As part of this work, we are also researching the additional benefits of ropeless fishing technology and educating fishermen and the public about these benefits.  At the 2019 world marine mammal conference in Barcelona we and colleagues presented a scientific poster, “Educating marine audiences on the advantages of ropeless fishing systems: emerging technologies offer benefits to whales and fishermen alike.

Safe fishing gear including lobster trap
Life Vest Floating In The Water