Fishing gear lost or dumped in the ocean may account for almost one-half of all the plastic waste that ends up there. The Norwegian company Resqunit has developed a solution that is good for both the fisherman and the environment.
Large lobsters are caught almost exclusively with lobster pots (also called "lobster traps"). These are large rigid objects which the lobster enters voluntarily, often to reach bait, and which it then cannot escape. Traditionally, a lobster trap has two compartments. The outside, or “kitchen”, has nylon netting leading inside the trap to the “parlor” where the lobsters are caught.
Legal restrictions apply to the catching of lobsters in many parts of the world, in order to prevent overfishing and allow recruitment to the next generation. Common restrictions include the provision of a minimum landing size, preventing fishermen from catching females carrying eggs, closed seasons and limiting catches with individual fishing quotas. The waters of the North Sea contain a large stock of Norwegian lobsters, but it is not inexhaustible. Therefore, lobster fishing season is restricted to only 2 months in a year: October and November. Moreover, fishermen are asked to pay attention to young and spawning lobsters.
Ghost fishing a growing problem
But overfishing isn’t the only threat to the lobster population. Every year between 500,000 and 1 million tons of fishing gear is lost at sea – resulting in toxic plastic pollution and 338.000 tons of fish and shellfish killed from ghost fishing. The lost gear includes 10-20% of lobster trap equipment. Fishing gear is expensive, so when the Norwegian fisherman Dag Frode Aasnes lost a lobster trap in 2016, he realized that this was a widespread problem and tried to find a solution. Together with Helge Trettø Olsen and Per Waagen, they developed Resqunit, an intelligent way to retrieve lost equipment from the sea and at the same time remove an environmental hazard.
Automatically floats to the surface
The problem with lost lobster traps isn’t just economic; it is also a significant environmental problem. The missing trap is still active, drifting around and ensnaring fish and shellfish that eventually die and become the bait that attracts new fish. And this can go on for years. In addition, it also emits microplastic that becomes a part of the food chain and eventually ends up in the fish we eat. So, retrieving a lost trap is not just about saving money; it’s about fishing responsibly.
Resqunit’s solution is a floatation device mounted to fishing gear like lobster traps and crab pots. If a trap goes astray and remains underwater for a more extended period, the buoy is automatically released and floats to the surface. A strong rope is attached to it, so the gear can be hauled from the ocean when the buoy is spotted. The fishers save money, and an environmental hazard is removed.
Reliable buoyancy over time
The current model can be used to retrieve a lobster trap from down to 150 meters. It is made of Divinycell H or HCP buoyancy foam, depending on depth. Divinycell has low density with excellent compressive properties and closed cell structure, which gives it very low buoyancy loss and water absorption under long-term loading conditions. That way, Resqunit achieved an efficient, reliable buoyancy over time for the float to reach the surface. The outcome is an innovative economic solution preventing gear loss, ghost fishing, and plastic pollution in the oceans.
More information on www.resqunit.com
Get as PDF