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Underwater acoustics expertise prevents by-catch of cetaceans whilst supporting fisheries
Underwater acoustics expertise prevents by-catch of cetaceans whilst supporting fisheries

Protecting marine mammals

  • Underwater acoustics expertise prevents by-catch of cetaceans whilst supporting fisheries

The fishing industry often catches unwanted species during their routine operations and certain fisheries are well known for catching cetaceans – dolphins and porpoises, in particular.

This is a huge environmental and animal welfare issue.

Loughborough researchers have looked at this problem for many years and developed a solution which reduces unwanted by-catch and – by reducing costly damage to nets – makes a significant difference to the sustainability of our fishing industries.

Analysis of the active and passive acoustic detection capabilities of marine mammals in their normal habitat has led to an understanding of how animals shape the signals they produce as well as how they listen to returning echoes.

This work underpins a commercially viable, practical deterrent with a long battery life capable of working underwater at depth, whilst minimising risks to other species.

The electronic acoustic device is known as a pinger. The cetacean picks up the signal and responds by swimming away from the area or using its own sonar more efficiently in presence of fishing gear.

The pinger – AQUAMARK100 – has been manufactured by and commercially available from the Aquatech Group since 2000. The system has influenced European standards for the fishing industry – increasing its sustainability.

Impact

  • International policy 

    All vessels over 12m long using certain nets are required by the European Commission to fit pingers to help reduce cetacean by-catch.

  • New product development 

    AQUAMARK 100 – commercialised by the Aquatech Group in 2000 – transmits a variety of complex ultrasonic signals and complies with EC Council Regulation 812/2004 (Set 1) for static nets.

  • Diverse application 

    Applications include sea fishing, aquaculture, fish farms and offshore construction.

  • Best practice 

    The Loughborough research based pinger out-performs single frequency pingers because its minimum spacing requirement is at least double that of the single-frequency devices.

  • Sustainability 

    The pinger reduces costs caused by net damage, catch losses and down-time.

  • Award winning 

    World Wildlife Fund Special UK prize – preserving marine mammals through reduction in by-catch.