The Chronicle Herald (Metro)
In search of solution to fishing’s rope problem
Three friends from New Waterford have come together to find a solution to marine entanglement in fishing gear.
The trio, Wayne Macdougall, Clayton Burke and Kristopher Power, have developed a system that would lessen the amount of rope used in fishing, or eliminating it in many cases. And rope is a big culprit in the entanglement issue.
“Ropes don't kill marine animals, slack ropes do,” says Clayton Burke.
By eliminating rope or removing the slack in the ropes it will make a dramatic change in the number of entanglements, he said.
Burke told me in an interview on Thursday that their rope-free system could be attached to any existing lobster or crab trap, thus reducing the overall cost to a fisherman who may be interested in using the system.
“On a boat with about 300 traps, it would probably cost less than $30,000. That's with the side sonar and all that,” Clayton said.
Rather than using a buoy to mark where the trap was placed, he said the trap would be tracked using the sonar system and the RFID tag.
When it was time to harvest the catch, the retro-fitted trap would be brought to the surface by remotely inflating a bladder on either side of the trap, and it would be gently brought to the surface where it would be picked up by the fisherman, Burke said.
That is a big savings, if the fishermen are not required
“The fishermen know there is a problem (with entanglement and lost equipment), he said. It is just that most fishermen would like to find their own, cost-efficient solution, rather than having a more expensive and less effective system imposed upon them.” Clayton Burke
to buy all new traps in order to meet more stringent environmental concerns about other species interacting with their equipment. Among other things, the system would eliminate much of the interference with other marine animals that results in different species getting tangled in the fishing gear, he explained.
The system developers have no desire to manufacture the system themselves, Burke said. They want to sell it to a manufacturer, to serve the fishing industry the world over.
It all started about two and a half years ago when a group of lobster fishermen asked Power, who owns a lobster-trap manufacturing business, if he could develop a system that would prevent tampering, said Burke.
Macdougall and Burke later joined the pursuit of the idea that would solve the tampering issue and other problems faced by the fishing industry, such as lost traps and entanglements.
Their system uses radiofrequency identification tags as a means of ending so-called ghost fishing gear. With the tag, any damaged or abandoned gear can be traced to its origin — the owner of the vessel, the season it was used, and even the fishery area, Burke said in an interview Thursday.
The disconnected lines and buoys would also be recorded for recovery, and any adverse encounters with marine animals would be identified and recorded.
Burke said a global positioning system could be used in conjunction with the tagged lines and buoys, which would also allow captains and regulators to establish boundary lines between fishermen, track environmental issues, and monitor tampering and compliance issues.
Lost or damaged gear can be recovered, using their system, according to Burke. That means that repairs can be done quickly and refitting
will allow fish activity to resume as normal with all tagged and approved gear actively fishing.
Burke said the three partners had two fishermen ready to test out their system this year, but they couldn't get it approved by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in time.
“The fishermen know there is a problem (with entanglement and lost equipment),” he said. "It is just that most fishermen would like to find their own, costefficient solution, rather than having a more expensive and less effective system imposed upon them."