NOAA’s Tech Search Aims to Aid North Atlantic Right Whale Recovery
Can a “standard” technology scouting project help bring back the North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis)? We certainly hope so!
North Atlantic right whales are endangered large whales distributed along the East coast of the United States and Canada. Despite international protection since 1935, right whales have been slow to recover from whaling due to entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with ships. Even though there are a variety of conversation efforts in place today, North Atlantic right whales are still in decline, with less than 400 whales remaining.
One proposed solution to saving the right whales from extinction is to develop buoyless gear location marking technology. This approach removes the threat posed by vertical lines (i.e. ropes) currently used to track the location of fishing gear on the seafloor. A major obstacle to moving this effort forward is the development of an affordable system to locate and track gear deployments in the ocean, and make their locations known to fishermen, nearby vessels, and enforcement agencies.
Tech Scouting for a Wide Range of Solutions
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) engaged yet2 in a technology scouting project to identify new solutions for buoyless underwater object location marking. In order for the solution to be feasible, it had to be a low-cost system that could locate, track, and allow users to detect the location of underwater objects that might move beyond their initial deployment location area of interest (such as fishing gear). The systems were required to be ropeless – they could not use vertical lines and/or buoys to mark locations.
Additionally, the technology needed to:
- Update object location information quickly and accurately
- Have minimal impact during underwater deployment to marine life
- Have a rapid adoption time frame of 2 – 5 years
From a Sea of Possibilities to Pool of Potential Candidates
In 4 months, yet2 identified 41 relevant targets for the NOAA team to review. The technology included ropeless fishing systems, commercially available technologies and systems and novel academic research of Underwater Communication, Positioning, and Networking Systems. yet2 also examined acoustic, optical, and electromagnetic systems, novel methods, modems, and power-transfer techniques.
Upon reviewing these solutions, the NOAA/yet2 team has determined:
- Many companies with capabilities and existing projects have solutions that are not within the desired cost range; there are low-cost devices, but they do not appear to be manufactured at scale
- Acoustic devices are the most widely used and commercially mature, and therefore will be lower cost to develop
- Signal processing is an emerging area of research to improve localization accuracy, reduce power needs, increase range, and reduce reliance on expensive components
The most significant takeaway from this tech scouting project concerns acoustic devices. The yet2 team identified a large number of acoustic device solutions, making them a strong candidate for the final solution.
Read detailed results of the tech search:
Location: Woods Hole, Mass.
About: NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Its reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as it works to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them. NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and costs, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.
Kick-off to Pivot Report: 17 weeks
Targets reviewed: yet2 reviewed 120+ technologies and identified 41 that were in scope or relevant.
Challenge: Find technologies for ropeless/buoyless gear marking solutions
Solution: Technology scouting
Results: yet2 identified 41 relevant targets in ropeless fishing systems, communications and positioning, underwater devices, networking and positioning and other related areas.