The past two years have been transformative but incredibly busy for Sustainable Seas Technology. Here’s a look back at our key milestones and the progress we’ve made in advancing ropeless fishing gear.
1. Advancements in Ropeless Fishing Gear
Ropeless fishing gear has been at the forefront of our efforts. Traditional fishing methods, particularly those involving ropes and buoys, have long posed threats to marine life, especially to large mammals like whales. Entanglements can lead to injuries or even fatalities, which is why the development and promotion of ropeless fishing gear has been crucial.
In 2022 and 2023, we made significant strides in refining the technology behind ropeless systems. By collaborating with engineers, marine biologists, and fishermen, we’ve been able to help optimize gear that’s not only efficient but cost effective. Here are a few of the projects we have been working on…
2. Collaborative Projects and Workshops
Recognizing the importance of collaboration, we’ve engaged with various stakeholders over the past two years. From hosting workshops with local fishing communities to partnering with marine conservation organizations, our goal has been to foster a collective understanding toward the adoption of subsea buoy retrieval fishing practices.
These workshops have been instrumental in bridging the gap between technology and its practical application. We have explored issues such as virtual gear marking strategies, societal pressure from adjacent fisheries, economic challenges, marketing, and adoption barriers. By listening to the concerns and insights of fishermen, we’ve been able to help tailor solutions to meet the unique challenges they face.
Successful results from our first EFP in the South Atlantic black sea bass pot fishery led to a second EFP to allow on-demand gear testing within closure areas, with participation from our fishermen working with several varieties of the gear in waters from Sneads Ferry, N.C., south to Ormond Beach, Fla. The SAFMC’s recent decision could revolutionize the way fishing is done in these regions. By allowing ropeless or on-demand fishing gear, fishermen can continue their operations during seasonal closures without needing exemptions. This ensures that while the fishing industry thrives, the marine ecosystem, especially the North Atlantic right whales, remains protected. Traditional gear can still be used, but only outside of these closures.
3. Pilot Programs and Field Testing
2023 was a landmark year for field testing. We launched several pilot programs across different fishing communities to test the efficacy and adaptability of our ropeless gear. We have continued our previous work on the East Coast of the United States, spending most of the fall and winter with our black sea bass fishers, stress testing the gear. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many fishermen noting the ease of use and the tangible benefits to marine life.
4. Raising Awareness and Advocacy
Beyond the technological advancements, a significant part of our mission has been to raise awareness about the importance of on-demand fishing in fisheries which co-occur with whale migrations and populations. Through various campaigns, seminars, interviews, documentary segments, meetings, and public engagements, we’ve highlighted the positive aspects of pot fishing gear and the potential benefits of adopting ropeless gear for those fisheries who are welcoming to it or may be in need of it due to regional regulations. We have assisted in authoring numerous permit applications with fishers and manufacturers and have supported the work of other groups who are seeking to increase awareness with other stakeholders.
5. Looking Ahead
As we move forward, our focus remains on continuous innovation, collaboration, and expansion of available gears. We’re excited to grow our gear cache to make more ropeless fishing systems available to communities both in the US and abroad. Additionally, we aim to expand our available mobile gear workshops to make our work with bicoastal fishing communities easier and more affordable.
In conclusion, the journey from 2022 to 2023 has been both challenging and rewarding. We remain committed to our mission of ensuring that our seas remain vibrant and thriving for generations to come. With the support of our partners, stakeholders, and the broader community, we’re confident that the future of pot fishing will include ropeless gears that will allow fishing to safely co-occur with nature.
-KS, October 2023.