So-called "ghost" fishing nets are awful things. Lost or forgotten during commercial fishing operations, they can drift in the ocean for years, indiscriminately catching marine life as they do. A newly-invented tag, however, may help keep that from happening.
Known as PingMe, the device was developed at Norway's SINTEF institute. Research scientist Tone Berg first came up with the idea after seeing a heartbreaking photo of a sea turtle caught in a ghost net.
The idea is that single PingMe tags (pictured below, with Berg) would be affixed to fishing nets that are still in use, where they would reflect acoustic signals transmitted from fishing vessels' sonar systems. Utilizing built-in electronics, though, they would alter those reflected signals in a specific fashion which was assigned to each fisherman's nets.
If users lost track of one of their nets while fishing, they could simply look for its distinctive signal on their sonar screen, which would also indicate the net's location and depth. Additionally, if fishermen or other people came across a ghost net equipped with one of the tags, its ID signal could be used to determine who was responsible for "releasing" it.
The device has an operating radius of 500 meters (1,640 ft), and is powered by a small battery that's good for approximately five years of use. It has already been successfully tested in Norway's Blaklidammen lake.
Together with co-developers Tonni Franke Johansen and Odd Trandem, Berg is now about to begin commercialization of the technology via a SINTEF spinoff company. She tells us that the PingMe tags could also be used to locate and identify lost lobster/crab pots, and to track the whereabouts of the lines used in longline fishing.
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