IF WE create a whale-safe fishing method, can we prevent extinction of an endangered species around the world?
Traditional Trap Pot fishing typically uses vertical ropes which connect gear on the seafloor to a buoy on the surface, allowing fishermen to find and haul their catch. These systems pose a risk of entanglement to whales as they often cannot see them easily and run into them. When this happens, they try to untangle themselves and break the line by twisting and turning, as well as breaching above the water in a final effort to break the rope. Sometimes this works, other times it further entangles the whale, leaving it forced to continue its many thousand mile journey with a few hundred pounds being towed behind. 85% of entanglements over the last 30 years have been due to traps and nets.
LiftLabs was founded at the ConservationXLabs Competition in Malaysia, where 4 environmentalist engineers founded the idea to create a solution the ongoing problem faced by an ever dwindling species, called the North Atlantic right whale. With around 350 remaining and on the critically endangered species list, we have a very limited amount of time to bring them back to a healthy population before it's too late. Projects like ours aim to bridge the gap between real world challenges faced by traditional fishers and the environment to allow coexistence.
LiftLabs is a lineless, self-surfacing, modular lobster trap retrieval system that prioritizes the needs of fishers. Traps utilizing LiftLabs sit entirely on the seafloor, never extend a line to the surface, and raise themselves only when needed. This eliminates the possibility of entanglement. In order to retrieve a trawl, a lobsterman sends an acoustic signal from a tracker on their boat to a module attached to their trawl. The module then releases air from a tank to inflate an attached balloon. The balloon increases in size until it can raise the trawl to the surface, where it is retrieved per usual. Critically, our technology enables lobstermen to keep fishing the way they always have – important for encouraging adoption. With it, fishers can have the option of trading out their rope and buoy for a ropeless solution at an affordable price-point. LiftLabs is also designed as a safer and faster approach to traditional methods.
The upside of introducing some smarts to the lobster fishing world enables us to think outside the box with creating an ability for fishers to know more about what's going on with their gear without lifting it out of the water.
The LiftLabs team has been working alongside lobstermen to develop a new type of trap pot fishing gear that allows for virtually zero impact on the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale population, as well as many other large marine mammal species.
The 3DEXPERIENCE Platform has allowed for a fast paced development timeline while keeping all of the work in one central location.
No major changes are done in a silo. This mentality has driven our collaborative effort with policy makers, customers, environmentalist, and investors to develop a supportive innovation for industry and environmental coexistence.
Cormac leads the mechanical design. With an engineering background and his interest in ocean conservation, ropeless technology became the main focus quickly. He has worked in medical device development, infrared camera manufacturing, and has always had a gravitational pull towards environmental conservation.
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