The Ropeless Manufacturer’s Workgroup on Virtual Interoperable Gear Marking
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when thinking about fishing with gear that is totally submerged is how to communicate to others the location of that gear when needed. Traditionally, this is done with a visual marker buoy. When we remove those buoys and store them at depth, we remove important information that fishermen and enforcement personel around the world rely on. Our project will return that information in an easy to use system that allows fishermen and their fisheries managers around the world to make appropriate regional-level decisions around gear selection and data management. Our system also keeps fishermen’s fishing data as private and secure as allowed by law.
The Ropeless Manufacturer’s Workgroup building this interoperable system consists of the following companies who have ropeless fishing gear available or actively in use or development around the world: FioMarine (AU), Desert Star Systems (US), Lobsterlift (US), Ropeless Systems (US), Longsoaker (US), Sub Sea Sonics (US), EdgeTech (US), and Ashored (CAN). We are working to build a backend system that can be used (for free or very low cost) by any fisherman in the world (fixed or mobile gear) to visualize where gear is on the seabed, so they can fish accordingly. The system is being built to provide as much security around fishing data privacy as possible, so that the information can’t be used in an inappropriate manner. Our project has been all volunteer and self-funded to date, but the project did receive a Mammal Commission grant last month to further our efforts.
Marine Mammal Commission Grant 2021
Design for an International Virtual Fishing Gear Marking System
to Reduce Whale Entanglements
Marine animal entanglement in pot fishing gear has been a global concern for several decades. Research on the adaptation of “ropeless” devices for use within trap fisheries over the last two decades has identified “removal of end lines” as a promising mitigation measure that would lower entanglement risk to critically endangered species. This innovative gear, coupled with regulatory measures, will likely reduce both fishing gear loss and entanglement‐based mortality of marine animals. This project aims to contribute to the development of a virtual multi‐manufacturer (interoperable) gear marking system to replace traditional marker buoys at the sea surface. This system will allow fishermen to locate equipment quickly while also providing gear information to enforcement entities, enabling fishing with gear that can improve the protection and conservation of marine mammals through minimizing entanglement risk. This project will coordinate collaborative activities for eight leading ropeless fishing gear manufacturers and gear marking developers to create a comprehensive plan for data management, requirements, and integration parameters to develop an international virtual gear tracking system.
Ropeless Manufacturers Workgroup –
High Level Comments for the Virtual Workshop on Buoyless Fishing Gear Location Marking Methods
“Stated Goal of the Meeting, (hosted by PEW, CWLF, and WHOI on September 21, 2021): The goal of the meeting is to review and establish a final list of requirements for a gear location marking system, evaluate the available gear location marking methods with respect to the requirements, and decide which method best meets the agreed-upon requirements. This information will be used by commercial manufacturers to begin developing devices for gear location marking that will meet the needs of all stakeholders.
Stated Background of the Meeting: The conveners of the workshop have conducted interviews with numerous stakeholders already and have developed a list of preliminary requirements in a new report — which you can view here. The report also briefly describes each of the gear location marking methods and provides an initial assessment of those methods with respect to the preliminary requirements. A description of the workshop process is also included in the report. We strongly encourage you to review this report, as it will be the starting point for workshop discussion and is meant to facilitate efficient decision making during the workshop.”- Pew, CWLF, WHOI.
The Ropeless Manufacturer’s Workgroup offers the following comments in response to the Stakeholder Meeting Report and process:
- The RMW wants to express strong resistance to the goal of the meeting to have a small, selected group make decisions for the global ropeless community regarding the best method of gear marking. Our position is that no one system will meet the needs of all stakeholders in all fisheries, and that flexibility to allow for a range of systems is critical to successful implementation, recognizing that communities will collaboratively choose the best systems for a given application.
- There are many different fisheries with many different gear types, fishing methods, environmental conditions, regulatory requirements, trap densities, etc. We cannot anticipate what gear is going to be the best for every fishery, but we can be sure that it won’t always be the same gear and gear marking system. Thus, the RMW supports having a range of systems available on the market as making obvious sense.
- The best system (GPS only or supplemented by acoustic ranging, directional acoustics, SART, etc.) for a given fishery or situation will be the one that fishers are willing to adopt, is efficient and cost effective, and adequately serves the purpose of allowing the marking of gear without surface buoys. The RMW does not support the forcing of a single system onto either the fishers or the manufacturers.
- The RMW is already investing in and developing a cloud-based data sharing system that will provide the capability for interoperability across different systems while supporting data access for regulatory, enforcement and third-party requirements. In addition, many manufacturers have already invested in the development, testing and implementation of front-end gear marking applications and systems that will be supported agnostically by the backend system that is under development.
- Adopting an approach that only allows for one method of gear marking would require that the selected method be the best for all situations and all time (now and future). On the other hand, adopting an agnostic approach that simply specifies a standard and provides the underlying data sharing technology can support any system including those already in use, those under development, and those that we have not even thought of yet.
- As a starting point, fishers have been using GPS-based marking on chart plotters for many years and are highly comfortable with this method of gear marking. Thus, unless it can be specifically shown that GPS marking is inadequate for a particular fishery or enforcement requirement, then GPS marking will provide a logical minimum baseline for implementation of systems. The added capabilities, complexities, and costs associated with acoustic gear marking will also clearly be useful in many situations. Using the interoperability system that the RMW is developing will allow these decisions to be made at the fishery level by the people that have to live with the decisions and provide that fastest pathway to effective implementation.
- While the RMW supports and participates in developmental efforts toward improvements in gear marking, we also have a number of technical concerns with the potential for a single, developmental system to be selected as the only method for gear marking. The documents provided leading up to the meeting suggest a strong institutional bias toward the SART system. The RMW has reviewed the very limited information available on the SART system and has significant technical concerns which, for brevity, we will provide in written comments or in further discussion if time allows.
- If any group suggests or mandates a standard communication and or marking system, then there should be extensive testing and proving of the proposed standard. All existing methods should be tested against each other before any one method should be chosen. To adopt a standard that is not proven will increase costs for everyone involved and could reduce reliability and efficiency.
-Kim Sawicki, as Primary Investigator on the RMW Virtual Interoperable Gear Marking System, and on behalf of the Ropeless Manufacturer’s Workgroup.