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At Sea With EarthRanger

August 23, 2022

Biologist Christin Khan sees great promise in this platform for making on-demand gear affordable and effective for the benefit of whales and fishermen.

A color image taken in the summer during the day in overcast conditions. Two wire cages containing on-demand fishing gear are at left at the edge of the docking area that abuts the cement parking lot and lay-down area. The group is at the center. A brick building with two garage bays is in the background.

On-demand fishing removes the threat of entanglement posed by vertical buoy lines. This solution could help save North Atlantic right whales from extinction while supporting coastal fishing communities. A major obstacle to moving this effort forward is the need to develop an affordable system to track gear deployments in the ocean. We also need to make their locations known to the fishermen, enforcement agencies, and nearby vessels.

NOAA Fisheries has been collaborating with the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. We are harnessing their EarthRanger platform to integrate gear deployments from multiple manufacturers into a centralized cloud database and display.

A color image taken during the day in overcast conditions. A small fishing vessel is backed into a slip at a dock, and the vessel name is clearly visible on the stern. Several people are on the deck with wire cages containing on-demand gear components. Several onlookers are on the dock on the right side of the image.
The F/V Resolve returns to the dock after a successful day out on the water testing on-demand fishing gear deployments in the EarthRanger platform. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Christin Khan

Testing EarthRanger’s Capabilities

A large community of stakeholders went out in Cape Cod Bay to test the visibility of gear deployments with the visiting EarthRanger team on July 26, 2022. The teams were divided between two commercial fishing vessels. They deployed gear within a few miles of each other to test the functionality of sharing positions of gear made by different manufacturers.

A color image of a brightly-colored, hard plastic box with dials and a cable attached to it.
EdgeTech Bluetooth® low energy acoustic transceiver (BLEAT) deck box unit for on-demand fishing gear. It sends an acoustic signal to a cage on the bottom that is attached to the fishing gear, triggering a release mechanism that sends a float from the cage to the surface so a vessel can see it.

On-demand fishing gear was deployed from an EdgeTech system, and from the SMELTS lift bag system with Teledyne acoustics and Blue Ocean Gear buoys. They monitored the speed with which positions were resolved in the EdgeTech Trap Tracker app and the EarthRanger platform.

A color image taken during the day in overcast conditions. A close-up of a cell phone, screen-side up in a person's hand. A graphic is displayed.
EarthRanger dashboard display of deployments from gear made by different manufacturers viewed on a cell phone during on-the-water trials in Cape Cod Bay. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Christin Khan

Seeing gear deployments from different manufacturers appear within minutes on the same interface was a huge step forward in the development of on-demand fishing gear. It was very encouraging for our ability to resolve the challenges associated with geolocation in the absence of a surface buoy. We were impressed with the speed at which gear positions were marked and resolved from the display.

Getting all of these diverse stakeholders out on the water together provided important opportunities to learn from each other. It helped us better understand where we can make improvements to the existing functionality, as well as lots of opportunities to brainstorm about diverse topics.

Overall we learned a lot and have demonstrated that gear location marking for ropeless and on-demand fishing is possible and no longer represents a barrier to progress.

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Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on September 15, 2022

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