Developing a way for fishers and whales to co-exist

Where we are today

We are in the middle of a NOAA grant where we are working on device development alongside fishers. By the end of this grant, our system will be tested by near shore fishers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

In November, we brought the LobsterLift system and docking station aboard F/V Resolve in Sandwich, MA for testing with lobsterman Rob Martin and NOAA researcher Brian Galvez. We were glad to bring along Scott Fulmer, an expert on the ergonomics of lobstering, who is evaluating safety in the design and workflow of our system. We are also ecstatic to announce the integration of SubSeaSonics acoustics into the LobsterLift, with multiple successful deployments aboard Resolve. Many thanks to Rob, Brian, and Scott for their feedback and time.

In October, we developed a docking station to efficiently reset and redeploy the LobsterLift system aboard fishing boats. We brought the station up to Southwest Harbor, ME for testing and demonstration with local fishers. We received invaluable feedback from lobster fisher Holly Masterson and are excited to incorporate her advice into the next iteration of our design.

In September, we ventured to the coast of Georgia for a knowledge exchange, hosted by Kim Sawicki and Sustainable Seas Technology. The black sea bass fishery there was recently granted an Exempted Fishery Permit to fish with ropeless gear during the winter, when right whales are present. We learned a tremendous amount from the fishermen and multiple other manufacturers of ropeless gear who were present. This is a hopeful example of ropeless in action, and we look forward to being a part of similar events in the future. We'd like to extend a massive thank you to Oscar Navarette and Chops Cowdrey for having us aboard their boats, as well as to Kim and all the fishers who made this possible.

We’ve been hard at work this summer, from Massachusetts to Maine. In June and July, we made trips to Bar Harbor, ME to stress test our enclosures both in deep water and for overnight deployments. We recently joined lobsterman Rob Martin as well as NOAA researchers Eric Matzen and Brian Galvez in Sandwich, MA. They were able to see the full LobsterLift system in action, hauling a three trap trawl in Cape Cod Bay. We are grateful for valuable feedback from each of them and to Rob for welcoming us aboard Resolve for the day.

In May, we brought aboard NOAA Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist, Nick Hopkins, to trial the full system with integrated acoustics in Gloucester Harbor. It was great to share our progress with Nick, and he joined us for a tour of the LobsterLift Lab and our newly-built Manufacturing Line. We had a number of productive conversations during Nick's two-day visit, learning from his experiences lobstering, trawling, and testing experimental gear. He provided valuable feedback and advice on our design to ensure the LobsterLift will be both tough and effective in the field.

Cormac brings a LobsterLift aboard with trap in tow

In April, we welcomed aboard new team member, Will Carome, to help with building and testing LobsterLift systems alongside lobstermen. We began our 2022 testing season in Bar Harbor, Maine where we were successful in testing the LobsterLift with integrated acoustics out to 152 ft and look forward to pushing the system further this spring and into the summer!

Our new team member Will Carome

The team had successes testing the full LobsterLift system with integrated acoustics out to 152 ft depth. We're looking forward to pushing the system further when we get back on the water later this summer.

The LobsterLift team is currently integrating multiple acoustics communications systems, and building units for testing with lobstermen. In the photo above, Ted is getting ready to toss the LobsterLift overboard to pressure test the housing at 182ft depth! This is all made possible by the NOAA Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program grant.

Ted out testing on the water for the first time (in 2019) got a splash of initiation
The LobsterLift system

A brief history

It all started at a prototyping competition in Malaysia hosted by Conservation X Labs. From there, it's continued to be developed into a system tested in the ocean environment by fishers.

" ...a team of conservation-minded engineers set about finding a solution for the problem of right whale entanglements—while also keeping in mind the needs of lobster fishing families. The winners of last year’s Make for the Planet Borneo hackathon at the 5th annual International Marine Conservation Congress came up with a device they dubbed LobsterLift."

- Smithsonian Magazine

On a whim, 4 engineers decided to take a trip to Malaysia for an international oceanic prototyping competition