Since being unveiled more than a year ago by researchers at the Norwegian-based Ocean Space Acoustics (OSAC) there has been growing interest in the PingMe reporting tool set to bring an end to the financial and environmental impacts for fishermen who lose their pots, gill nets and even trawl gear.
As senior Sales Executive Petter Pettersen explains, when OSAC set about this development, they collaborated with research institute SINTEF to find a workable and affordable solution to work towards achieving cleaner oceans but to also aid fishermen to avoid potential costly losses of fishing equipment.
This collaboration of high tech R&D resulted in the PingMe, a smart tool for tagging gear and objects under water which, with new transponder technology either integrated with the boat’s sonar or as a stand-alone system, makes it easy to find and identify lost gear.
PingMe consists of a small, user-friendly sensor device attached to the gear before and, the software module integrated in the boat’s existing sounder or as a stand-alone system acts as a locator and location monitoring system.
Following some delays in development and production due to the global pandemic, PingMe will initially be on the market as an affordable standalone system, a combination of a sensor and wheelhouse-based signal reader, but work is underway to provide a system that will allow for simple integration of the signal reader into any vessel’s existing sounder.
PingMe’s software allows communication with the transponder to determine location and ID and, as an added bonus, the PingMe service also reports location and ID to the Cloud where the information is also stored and data on lost, detected and retrieved gear is reported, some of it automatically.
This not only enables the fisherman to monitor the location of his gear but could, depending on how many users are using the information available, help avoid conflicts with other boats or fisheries who can use the system to be aware of where gears are deployed.
The transponder itself is passive and reflects sound waves originating from the sonar. The reflected signal is encoded with a unique identity so that the sounder with PingMe software integrated can identity the transponder and calculate its position. This information can be encrypted if the information is to be transferred to the cloud.
The PingMe sensor also relays information on water temperature at its location. It can also be used for better control during active fishing, as transponders attached to the gear provide updates of its position.
It was when Norwegian gear manufacturer and supplier Mørenot became the registered dealer for PingMe that new avenues began to open up.
According to Fred Helge Kaald, marketing manager for Mørenot’s Russian operation, there is much anticipation for the PingMe, particularly for crab fisheries in the Bering Sea, plus there is interest from Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
‘Previously, the biggest challenge to pot fisheries in colder waters has been that when the seas have iced up and trapped the fishing gear, once the ice packs begin to move they drag the fishing gear out of position and traditionally this has caused many problems for fishermen to relocate their gear – the PingMe tool will now do away with this problem,’ he commented.
‘We had originally hoped to launch this to the market last autumn but Covid caused the postponement of all such events – so now we’re hopeful of launching in the coming months,’ he said, adding that the benefits and potential of this tool are not limited to pot fisheries.
‘There are many longline vessels working in the South Pacific on fisheries such as Patagonian toothfish and the fact that there are stringent criteria attached to this fishery due to environmental concerns, the availability of a device that can ensure the recovery of any lost gear has been welcomed by this fisheries managers and participants.’