Porpoise deterrent wins UK Smart Gear Award

Porpoise deterrent wins UK Smart Gear Award

An innovative device which could significantly reduce the number of harbour porpoises and other cetaceans caught in fishing nets has won the UK prize in the International Smart Gear Competition, organised by WWF. Inventor, Andy Smerdon of Aquatec Group Ltd in Hampshire receives the $5000 award sponsored by industry organisation Seafish for his ‘Passive Porpoise Deterrent', an idea which draws on the harbour porpoise's echolocation system to protect the mammal from getting caught up in fishing nets.


According to Sally Bailey, North East Atlantic Marine Manager at WWF-UK, more whales, dolphins, and porpoises die every year by getting entangled in fishing gear than from any other cause, so inventions like this are critical for enabling smarter fishing in our seas. Bycatch is a critical environmental and economic problem, but not one without solutions, as demonstrated by the number of entries in this year's International Smart Gear Competition. The passive porpoise deterrent is simple, cost-effective, and could radically reduce the amount of bycatch in UK fisheries.


The International Smart Gear Competition was created by WWF and a diverse range of partners to bring together fishermen, policy makers and scientists to find solutions to reduce the unnecessary decline of vulnerable species due to bycatch.


Since the 1990s, acoustic pingers have been effective in reducing cetacean bycatch. However their relatively high cost has hindered their wider implementation, as have concerns over reliability and whether they cause noise pollution to the animal's environment in the long term.


Developed by Aquatec Group Ltd, the Passive Porpoise Deterrent alerts porpoises to the presence of fishing nets using resonant acoustic reflectors that increase the net's "acoustic visibility", and do so in a less complicated way than the currently used pingers. When a porpoise emits a click, the reflectors transmit back a stronger echo, making the reflectors appear to the porpoise to be much larger objects than they are, and thus alerting them to danger.


On winning the award, Andy Smerdon said to be thrilled that this idea has captured the imagination of the judges. Aquatec's pingers have already shown how technology can be applied to eliminate porpoise deaths in European fisheries. He is confident that this new application of underwater acoustics can bring benefits to fishermen struggling with marine mammal bycatch problems, not only in Europe but throughout the world. I'm delighted to receive the award, which will provide a kick start to setting up a trials programme for the device."




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