Halifax-based Ashored Innovations is continuing with development of its ropeless gear technology.
The local company is planning to do further testing this spring after adding the acoustic element to MOBI (Module Ocean Based Instrument), its smart buoy.
Sea trials were conducted last fall which tested the release mechanism, the tracking system and cage containment unit.
“We had some success with that,” said co-founder Maxwell Poole, vice-president of marketing and product development. “We learned a lot and where we need to go. We’re working on adding the acoustics right now and hope to do some trials with that in the spring.”
MOBI made its public debut at the Eastern Canadian Fisheries Exposition in Yarmouth this winter. The device uses a “magnet to arm and set our system up,” explained Logan MacLean, oceans electronics technologist. It has a T-bar with a slot, and when the system is armed, the T-bar rotates 90 degrees and locks the lid in place, said MacLean.
When the unit is thrown overboard, “it will flip upside down, so the lid is facing down and that’s actually what’s clipped to the anchor. Our centre unit where the electronics are housed is where your going to attach your buoys and the centre unit also attaches to the cage containment.”
The cage, which houses the buoy line can easily hold 120 fathoms of half-inch rope.
A tracking system called Atlas has also been developed by Ashored Innovations. The system scans ropeless gear tags attached to traps and as they are shot off the boat, the tags are automatically scanned, the GPS coordinates uploaded to a central database and a map of the area created so anyone in a two to three-kilometre radius can see where gear is set.
“The big advantage to our system is it’s automated so you don’t have to press a button when you shoot a trap off. It knows the trap is no longer there and the tag has left the deck,” said MacLean, adding Ashored Innovations has already partnered with the Iridium satellite phone service so the system will work in areas without cell service.
The acoustic element will add the ability to send a signal to the smart buoy to release it. For the sea trial purposes in the fall, a 12-hour timer was used to release the buoy.
“We wanted to make sure the release mechanism was working okay… since that was a go, now we’re adding the acoustic element,” said Poole. “In a practical situation the captain wants to be able to send a signal releasing the buoy when approaching his gear about a kilometre or two out.”
Poole said he expects further at-sea testing will take place in southwestern Nova Scotia and Halifax, adding Ashored Innovations is “hoping to partner with a couple of crab boats in northern New Brunswick to do some sea trials to see what their set ups are like and how we can adapt to that as well.”
Ropeless gear technology is being developed to reduce whale entanglement with fishing gear, in particular the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
In 2018, there were more than 63 notices of closures to harvesters due to the presence of right whales in Atlantic Canada, mostly in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There were also closures in the Bay of Fundy and in Roseway Basin off southwestern Nova Scotia just days after the LFA 34 fishery closed.