• Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

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North East Technology Tackling $2.6bn ‘Ghost Net’ Environmental Pollution Crisis

Sea trials being conducted for the MyGearTag acoustic location device in the North SeaSea trials being conducted for the MyGearTag acoustic location device in the North Sea

Unique technology developed in the North East is set to be deployed worldwide to help address the significant costs and environmental harm caused by lost ‘ghost’ fishing nets.

Succorfish has created MyGearTag, a state-of-the-art acoustic location device that uses miniaturised modem technology to enable fishing boats to find lost nets, pots and traps over a range of up to three kilometres.

Crafted entirely from recycled fishing nets and weighing just 500 grammes, MyGearTag can be fitted onto new equipment as part of the manufacturing process or retrofitted to fishing boats’ existing gear.

After successfully completing trials in the North Sea and the Arabian Sea, Succorfish launched MyGearTag at the recent Scottish Skipper Expo in Aberdeen and is now working on finalising distribution and reseller agreements with a number of potential partners right around the world.

MyGearTag has been developed in partnership with Newcastle University’s Faculty of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and the pan-European NETTAG+ project, with grant funding provided by UK Research & Innovation and the European Union.

It is manufactured in the UK and assembled at Succorfish’s North Tyneside headquarters, with around 15 new North East jobs expected to be created over the next year as Succorfish grows its team to meet predicted global demand.

Chad Hooper, founder and CEO at Succorfish, says: “There is nothing on the market like MyGearTag in terms of its size, cost, low power use and effectiveness, and we’re hugely excited about the prospects for its adoption by the commercial fishing industry right around the world.

“Industry figures suggest that between half a million and one million tonnes of fishing gear is lost at sea every year, at a financial cost of around $2.6bn.

“Just under half of all the plastic in the world’s oceans is also estimated to be lost fishing equipment, while as well as causing significant pollution from simply being there, these ‘ghost nets’ can also cause substantial damage to underwater eco-systems and habitats.

“Fishing equipment can be lost for any number of reasons, such as bad weather causing lines to be broken or being accidentally dragged away from where they were left by other boats’ gear, and unless its owners know where it’s gone, it can be almost impossible to find it again.

“MyGearTag allows for lost fishing nets, pots and traps to be quickly located over a wide area, thus avoiding the substantial cost of replacing them, reducing the amount of plastic in our oceans and preventing any damage being caused to marine life.”

Each MyGearTag unit is registered to its user with a unique ID, meaning other people are not able to locate it if it gets lost, while an easy-to-use app providing the directional tool required to enable owners to find their missing equipment.

The technology is housed in a robust enclosure to protect it from the water and currents, while its ultra-low power requirements mean it can be run on four interchangeable AA batteries for up to six months.

Founded in 2008, Succorfish is a world leader in fisheries and security applications, and already has a 20-strong in-house design, software engineering, development and customer service team which manages all aspects of clients’ technology requirements.

Its hardware is already being successfully used by customers as far afield as Norway, Malta, the US, Australia and New Zealand, while it is also one of just two UK firms to have its Inshore Vessel Monitoring Systems accredited for use in British fishing waters by the Marine Management Organisation.

Chad Hooper continues: “Every hour that a vessel spends looking for lost equipment is an hour that it isn’t fishing, which makes for a ‘double whammy’ in terms of financial impact, while there’s also an increased health and safety risk from crews that comes from having to search for lost equipment.

“From a sustainability point of view, the low-level noise that MyGearTag emits has been specifically designed to minimise any impact on the underwater environment, while working with the Ocean Material Group to manufacture the casing from recycled fishing nets adds an extra dimension to its environmental effectiveness.

“We’ve already had a great deal of interest from potential customers across the fisheries industry, from net manufacturers through to end users, and we’re now working towards building a global network of distributors and resellers that will take this technology out to all those fishing industry businesses that would benefit from adopting it.”