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Students Recognised for Innovative Seal Catch Reduction Designs

25 August 2015

AUSTRALIA - Future fisheries managers from the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) have been recognised for their innovative designs for devices to reduce the incidental capture of seals during trawl fishing.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck visited the IMAS Launceston Campus to announce the winners of the competition which was jointly sponsored by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA).

"It is great to see such innovation and enthusiasm from students to design 'real' solutions for challenges faced by Australia's trawl fisheries," Senator Colbeck said.

"Innovation is important as we continue to work together with industry and other fishery stakeholders to ensure Australia's fisheries management practices remain among the very best in the world.

"Congratulations to the winner, Tommy Cheo and his Nagging Siren design. It's encouraging to see a student interested in developing potential solutions to address real issues faced by industry."

The winning design, the Nagging Siren is a mechanical device towed behind the boat or attached to the fishing gear that, when dragged through the water, emits an irritating noise intended to deter seals from entering the area around the fishing operations.

The list of winners, along with comments from the judges is below.

Summary of winners

Winner

Nagging Siren, Tommy Cheo

The Nagging Siren is a mechanical device towed behind the boat or attached to the fishing gear that, when dragged through the water, emits an irritating noise that deters seals from entering the area around the fishing operations.

The judges considered this to be the standout idea. It was considered to be a simple, easily constructed device that, if developed, would likely see high acceptance among industry due to the 'set and forget' nature of the design.

2nd

SealYa Later, Ben uit den Bogaard

The SealYa Later is a grid of flexible electrodes that carry a small DC current across the mouth of the net. The source of the current will be provided by specially designed battery units that are fitted to the head rope of the trawl. The mild fields of DC current will cause an uncomfortable sensation and deter the seals from entering the net.

Judges thought that this was a very good, novel idea which was definitely worth investigating and could be further developed and potentially commercialised. The idea of using electric barrier nets has also been shown to work in other applications.

3rd

Illuminator, Tana McCarthy

The Illuminator is a system of lights and reflectors designed to aid seals to orientate themselves in the net and increase their ability to escape. The illuminated and flashing panels of the net will increase the probability of seals finding their way out of the mouth of the net and also through an escape hatch (The escape hatch is already a proven methodology)

The judges considered that this system of lights and reflectors designed to aid seals from escaping the net was very novel and could be put into practice

Overall, judges felt the design warranted further investigation and it would be likely have high uptake within industry if it worked.

Honourable mention

Seal Mask, Jack Hauser

The Seal Mask is a system of canisters containing chemical irritants and dyes that would be released around the boat and the net. This cloud of substances released is designed to mask the fishing operation, confusing seal senses and deterring them from entering the mouth of the net. The ingredients used in Seal Mask are natural products that are not harmful to seals.

Judges considered that this was a thoroughly researched entry of a very high standard and was a very innovative idea. However, all judges agreed that the masking effect would likely have a low to moderate level of efficacy with a short radius of effect (i.e. a cloud of irritant may emanate from behind the codend but not stop seals coming in from the sides). It was also mentioned that seals may acclimate to the deterrent over time.

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