The risks and hazards associated with commercial fishing are well known to crews of all types and sizes. Commercial fishermen work in environments that are often in the middle of nowhere, where they put in long hours and handle harsh weather that makes their jobs even more insecure. These are not situations that lend themselves to the unknown when it comes to how a new piece of gear is going to work.
Of course, the risks and inefficiencies of the “known” are not considered in the same way. An incredible amount of fishing gear is lost at sea each year, while many crews use outdated systems or make decisions based on old information. Farallon buoys from Blue Ocean Gear Solve all these problems while removing the element of the unknown in several ways.
Designed for track and monitor valuable fishing tackle and equipment when in the sea, the buoys are small and light enough to be stored inside a Dungeness crab or lobster pot, but durable enough to be jumped off deck or whipped around the sea. This durability and capacity has created opportunities for fishermen across the industry, all of whom help crews fish smarter today and tomorrow.
Savings in terms of time and money
Blue Ocean Gear technology is used in some of the world’s most challenging fisheries, including Alaska’s golden king and halibut and New Brunswick snow crab. Edward Poulsen operates several vessels in Alaska’s crab fleet. One of his vessels, F / V Patricia Lee, often sends crews quite far north for snow crab, which means they will be out of Dutch Harbor for several days. This presents several logistical challenges to keep track of their rolled out equipment on a daily basis.
Additionally, because his crews fish in the particularly deep waters of the Aleutians, challenges are related to understanding when their pots are on the surface, rather than when they are under water. The connected buoys that eliminate these uncertainties have given his crews real-time tracking and monitoring of their fishing gear, which has made a difference to his bottom line.
“It saves us weeks, at least in terms of fishing time, because the amount of effort we spent looking for buoys that weren’t even at the surface because they were pulled down by the tide was significant,” Poulsen said. “It’s huge in terms of the impact on our operations, and it’s the result of how the Blue Ocean Gear team understands the challenges we face as fishermen. The bottom line is that it helps us fish smarter.”
Poulsen mentioned that another of his team’s challenges was related to how they assessed the water temperature. They had relied on government data provided by the weather service, but it was not detailed or timely. By using the smart buoys that give him real-time data related to temperature, depth and acceleration, he has been able to make better decisions that save him time and fuel.
These savings are real and calculable, and they are the result of now being able to use information that would not otherwise be available. Insight into what happens or does not happen with exposed gear is also important information for fishermen who are focused on a very different kind of catch.
Solve problems and create opportunities
Robert Martin uses Blue Ocean Technology gear in a very specific way. As a tackle specialist and lobster man, he works with fishing, which predominantly uses pots and traps, but many also use nets, trawls and in the hands of divers. As part of his job, he has worked with lots of different equipment and new technology to solve the problem of whale entanglements in New England.
Initially, he chose Blue Ocean Technology solutions as part of a partnership with SMELTS, and he has been able to see these smart buoys as a fisherman-friendly alternative to gear tracking and control compared to some of the other regulators or NGOs. driven solutions being presented.
“Dealing with whale entanglements has become a major problem for lobster fishing,” said Martin, who is also part of the South Shore Lobster Fishermen’s Association. “Blue Ocean Gears buoys are a great addition to reblast gear, allowing lobster men in the area to reduce the number of lines in the water, reducing both entanglement risk and gear loss.”
Adopting this kind of new technology may seem like a big commitment, but it was something Martin was able to feel comfortable with and fully understood every step of the way. Blue Ocean technology makes it easy for users to start small, with pilot programs that do not change the way things were done from one day to the next, but instead can open the eyes of stakeholders across an entire organization.
Starting small is the advice that most users have, as that approach enables technology to be fundamental in a way that affects how things are done now, while opening up new possibilities. That connection to the present and the future is something many users are actively considering.
Efficiency today, opportunities tomorrow
Because Blue Ocean Gear buoys work with any type of fixed gear, the company has customers across the trap, longline, net and aquaculture sectors. One of these customers is Eben Nieuwkerk, owner of Shannon Kristine and the Flying Dutchman. He fishes traps and nets for lobster, monkfish and ground fish in southern Maine. He is one of very few yarn nets left in the Northeast.
Nieuwkerk has been using Blue Ocean Gear buoys for a few months as part of a partnership with SMELTS and has mentioned that the products have been able to minimize gear conflicts. Because the buoys instantly recognize when they are in the water, underwater or out of the water, they can automatically send him a ping when something out of the ordinary happens. He can instantly know when someone can disrupt his equipment or steal his catch.
In addition, the buoys help him collect data in a visual way that is easy to understand and use to make decisions. It has created efficiencies for his operations in the short term, but has already made him think about how such efficiencies can open up even more opportunities for his business.
“I think the smart buoys could essentially be used as fingers for my nets to save dolphins,” Nieuwkerk said. “The clever buoy could actually be used to track your end line, so if a whale was entangled in it, a rescue team would know the specific details of where and how it happened so they could go out and clear the rope.”
That kind of conversation about new and potential applications is the kind of thing that the Blue Ocean Gear team actively cultivates with their customers. Some users have talked about seeing their technology more fully integrated into the solutions they had used. Such integrations make a difference in the short term and at the same time open up for ideas in the long term.
Blue Ocean Gear has proven how to solve such challenges, and their smart bends’ easy integration with everything from traps to longlines, nets and even FADs, further demonstrates how many different options potential users can explore and test. With products that are easy to use and customizable, Blue Ocean Gear’s customer service team can find the right introductory hardware package and software for just about anyone.