BLUE and Waitrose partner to fight ghost gear

May 16, 2019


BLUE is pleased to announce a successful funding bid from the Waitrose Plastic Challenge in support of its SAFEGEAR initiative. Every year, an estimated 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost in the oceans around the world. SAFEGEAR offers a simple solution to stop this plastic pollution where it matters most – at source.

Using existing technology, beacons are being designed to fit onto existing fishing gear markers that normally comprise of a float, bamboo pole and flag. These electronic beacons will allow the fishing gear markers to be viewed on the bridge, wheelhouse and cockpit plotters of other marine traffic so they can avoid the hazard. Existing markers are almost impossible to see at night and often difficult in daylight.


Charles Clover, Executive Director of BLUE, said: “Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City, provides an excellent test bed for innovation in fisheries and conservation. Its dynamic fishing fleet offers a unique opportunity for new technology to be tested on all classes of vessels in search of comprehensive solutions.

“Ghost gear is the most sinister of all plastic pollution and it ruthlessly continues to capture and kill after it is lost in an indiscriminate way. Fishermen who have the misfortune of having their gear towed away and lost by other marine users face substantial financial losses to replace the gear and lost fishing time while new gear is sourced and taken back to sea, SAFEGEAR offers us a win-win solution for fishermen and the environment.

“We are grateful to the crew of the Elsie Leigh and the team at TecMarine in Plymouth that have helped us develop this project and so proud that our first project, in support of Plymouth becoming the UK’s first National Marine Park has received Waitrose’s support. Waitrose funding will now make it possible to move from pilot to a full trial in the development of kit and a rollout involving more of the local boats.”

Dan Crockett, Head of Operations of BLUE, said: “This simple idea could be an absolute game-changer for fishermen and the marine environment. Existing AtoN (aids to navigation) used by other marine users to identify hazards at sea don’t really fit onto existing fishing markers that fishermen use. We found that the battery life was too short for this application too.

“We are excited to be working with the fishermen and TecMarine to get this right. It is essential we end up with a product that works, but that most importantly is easy for fisherman to use at sea, sometimes in most harsh conditions. Working collaboratively in this way we are confident that we will be able to design and produce a beacon that is fit for purpose and a project that can be scalable and work elsewhere in the UK and World Oceans.”

Brian Tapper, owner of the fishing boat Elsie Leigh, said: “For small scale boats like us, going out to your gear to find it gone is soul destroying. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be able to hunt and find it, we can lose a whole day fishing trying to find it. But all too often it has been towed and then cut away by a passing ship and lost forever. We have lost as much as £20k worth of gear some years and for a small business is hard to stand these types of losses. It is great to be working on this from the start, the team know they have to design something that is easy to deploy and recover in ‘at sea’ conditions, what works on a test bench doesn’t always work at sea.”

Terry Smith, CEO of TecMarine, said: “We work with the SW fishing fleet day in / day out on mostly on electronic wheelhouse equipment. It’s great to be working on this project and using our experience of electronics at sea to make sure the kit isn’t just fit for purpose but to ensure it is built to last in this harsh environment.”

Read more about the Waitrose Plastic Challenge by clicking here.

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