Can we save the whales with lobster pots?

LobsterLift is a member of the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab accelerator program

With fewer than 400 remaining, North Atlantic right whales are one of the most critically endangered species of large whales. Some estimates put the number below 350, with the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noting that the whales are approaching extinction because they’re dying faster than they can reproduce. And human causes are a big reason why.

Entanglement in fishing gear, including lobster trap lines, is a big part of the problem. Getting caught in lines not only kills the whales, but it can also leave female survivors less likely to be able to reproduce. Calving rates among the remaining North Atlantic right whales has dropped by 40% over the past decade and there is real concern that the species may never successfully recover.

LobsterLift, a member of the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, has a mission of creating a whale-safe fishing method to help prevent the extinction of the right whales – and endangered species around the world.

Traditional trap-pot fishing methods typically use vertical lines connecting gear on the seafloor with buoys on the surface. Whales have a hard time seeing these lines and can easily swim into them and get caught up. Sometimes they’re able to free themselves by twisting, turning and breaching the surface to become untangled or break the line; sometimes these efforts further entangle the whale and they’re stuck towing a couple hundred pounds of rope and fishing equipment.

Visit LobsterLift’s 3DEXPERIENCE Lab page

LobsterLift uses the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to design safer lobster traps

LobsterLift aims to protect the whales by developing a lineless, self-surfacing, modular lobster trap retrieval system that also prioritizes the needs of fishers. Here’s how it works:

Traps using LobsterLift sit on the seafloor and do not extend lines to the surface. These trawls have attached modules that are wirelessly connected to a tracker on the boat.

Lobstermen locate their fishing gear via dropped pins on a map. When they are nearby an acoustic signal is sent from the boat to the LobsterLift module attached to the lead trap. The LobsterLift then inflates a buoy, creating enough buoyancy to raise the system to the surface.

While hauling in the trawl, the fisher can put the LobsterLift into its docking station so it can reset while they unload the catch.  Finally, they send the trawl back overboard and the pin is automatically dropped back onto the map.

The LobsterLift system presents a safer, faster option to traditional methods while allowing lobstermen to largely continue fishing the way they always have. This new type of trap pot fishing gear allows for virtually zero impact on the endangered North Atlantic whale population or other large marine mammal species.

Benefits from using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on cloud

As a member of the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab accelerator program, LobsterLift has access to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. The team credits the platform for enabling fast-paced development, while keeping all of the work in one central location.

LobsterLift got their start at a prototyping competition in Malaysia hosted by Conservation X Labs. They’re currently working alongside lobstermen to develop the gear so that it protects endangered species while meeting all of the needs of fishermen. They’ll test the system in off the New England coast, which is both a primary habitat of the North Atlantic right whales and a lobster fishing hotbed.

Learn more about the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab accelerator program. And check out more stories about 3DEXPERIENCE Lab startups. 

Patrick Ball

Patrick Ball

Patrick is a Senior Communications Manager on the Corporate Publishing team here at Dassault Systèmes. An experienced journalist, marketer, speechwriter and storyteller, Patrick's words have appeared on pages and stages around the world.
Patrick Ball

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