Sustainable Seas Technology Update: A Journey from 2022 to 2023

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…

California- Dungeness Crab

California- Brown Box Crab and King Crab

North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida-Black Sea Bass

Canada- American Lobster

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.

We have a chance to fix things.

No. 3329 Credit: Peter Flood

“If I seem like a radical, it may be because I see things that others do not. I think if others had the opportunity to witness what I’ve seen in my lifetime…I would not seem like a radical at all. We have a chance to fix things.”

-Her Deepness, Sylvia Earle. Mission Blue

It has taken several days for me to sit down and write this post.  This is not because I don’t know what to say, but because writing the words will make it real.

A year ago, I didn’t even know what a North Atlantic Right Whale was. Since that time, I have spent countless hours researching these animals, their families, their food, their habitats, their mating and migratory behaviors. I have also studied their necropsy reports, lab results, and a multitude of photos that exist of these animals and their babies. Too often, the images I see show them sliced apart or strangled by various fishing lines and lost gear, washed ashore as nothing more than deflated sacks of bone. The images of gaping wounds from propellers or a pathologist’s knife are becoming so common that now I feel each birth, and each loss, as intimately as if they were my own family.

We have lost 6 of a critically endangered species so far this season. Four of them were female.  We know that there are less than 100 breeding females in this tiny population that now numbers only 412. And this number only stands if all 7 of the calves born in Georgia and Florida survive their first year of life.

I will add more to this post as information becomes available, but please take a moment to pay tribute to these six individual animals whose lives enriched our coastal waters for too short of a time.

We still have a chance to fix things.

-Kim Sawicki, 1 July 2019

Please consider a donation to the Center for Coastal Studies, an organization that does incredible work for our North Atlantic Right Whales, as well as our ecosystem-at-large.

What do we know about these animals that died?

Punctuation Credit: DFO

We know that Punctuation, a 38-year-old grandmother, had been previously entangled in fishing gear before and survived. We also know that she was struck twice by boat propellers and lived. We know that she had at least 8 calves that also had successful births. We also know that she traveled to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence this summer, was struck by a third boat, and was killed.

Comet Credit: Dr. Moira Brown

We know that Comet, 34, was a grandfather as well. It has been determined by his autopsy, completed June 28th, 2019 by by the Marine Animal Response Society, DFO, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, the Atlantic Veterinary College, the province and the Canadian Coast Guard that his death was also, likely due to ship strike.

Wolverine Credit: Sheila McKenney/Associated Scientists of Woods Hole/Marineland Right Whale Project
Wolverine Credit: Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC
Wolverine’s Necropsy Credit: Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC

We know that Wolverine, whose cause of death has yet to be determined, was only 9 years old. This is the equivalent of a 9 year-old human child dying of “unknown” causes. Wolverine was named for the propeller gashes visible along his spine. He also had been the victim of a series of entanglements.

Clipper and Calf 2016 Credit-Marineland RW Project

We know that Clipper, who was necropsied today on the Gaspe Penisula, was the victim many years ago of a previous ship strike that left her with a clipped tail fluke. She was first seen in 2004, and had likely been a mother twice. Clipper was reported as of July 5th, 2019 to have also been killed by a ship strike.

No. 3815 Credit: Center for Coastal Studies

No. 3815 was first seen as a calf off New Jersey in May 2008. She is the daughter of Harmony, No. 3115, who was the daughter of No. 1815. She was only 12 years old, and was just entering the age of sexual maturity.

No. 3329 Credit: Jolinne Surette

No. 3329 was likely born in December 2002 off Georgia. She is the daughter of Viola No. 2029 who was the daughter of Ipanema, No. 1629. She was also quite photogenic.

We still have a chance to fix things. Right Whale Credit: Brian Skerry
sustainable seas 2019

Ocean Soul-Brian Skerry

© 2017 Brian Skerry

Brian Skerry is one of my favorite underwater photographers. I find his approach when capturing images of nature to be passionate, reverent, and humble. I am always delighted to introduce people to his work because his actions once out of the water center around conserving what he sees when beneath the waves. I love seeing the world through his camera lens, and I am sure you will, too. Enjoy!

-Kim Sawicki February 2019

Brian discusses the work behind his 2011 book, Ocean Soul, which can be purchased below.
© Brian Skerry and National Geographic

Brian Skerry is a photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998 he has been a contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine. In 2014 he was named a National Geographic Photography Fellow. In 2015 he was named a Nikon Ambassador and in 2017 he was named the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year.

2010 TED talk featuring Skerry discussing his ocean concerns.

Unique within the field of underwater photography is Brian’s ability to pursue subjects of great diversity. He typically spends eight months each year in the field and frequently finds himself in environments of extreme contrast from tropical coral reefs to diving beneath polar ice. While on assignment he has lived on the bottom of the sea, spent months aboard fishing boats and traveled in everything from snowmobiles to canoes to the Goodyear Blimp to get the picture. He has spent more than 10,000 hours underwater over the last thirty years.

His latest book, SHARK, was released in June 2017. You can order an autographed copy here:

In February 2017, National Geographic Magazine’s cover story focused on the protection and preservation of several of our country’s precious underwater ecosystems. Not only did Brian get to snorkel with the president, but he became the first photographer to ever catch an image of an “underwater Commander-in-chief”!

Brian can be followed on Instagram (@BrianSkerry), Twitter (Brian_Skerry) and on Facebook. His website is

You can purchase Ocean Soul by clicking the button below, or check out any of his other stunning work.

Disclaimer: All materials shared on this page are the artistic and intellectual property of Brian Skerry and National Geographic. If you link or share, please make certain to cite and credit both appropriately, as I have tried to do here. They work hard to support saving vital ecosystems, so ensuring they are credited both financially and artistically is important. Thanks!

Ropeless and Lineless Fishing Gear

Below you will find links and videos highlighting the current manufacturers of several different styles of this innovative gear. Not all of the gear videos are the most current, as some of the designs are protected under non-disclosure agreements with the author or patents pending. As newer videos become available, this page will be updated. I have also included links to contact the manufacturers directly under each video.

The systems are presented in alphabetical order. Feel free to contact the author for any questions.

-Kim Sawicki February 2019