The North Atlantic Right Whale population has been on the decline since 2010 and 85% of these beautiful creatures have been entangled in fishing gear at some point in their lives. In the past two years, 26 North Atlantic Right Whales have been killed between the U.S. and Canada, and Marc Palombo is a part of the effort to reduce this number.
In 2017, industry leaders met to examine three different buoyless system prototypes. The system which prevailed was a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant supported buoyless prototype developed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) Engineers. Since June of 2019, Palombo alongside WHOI Engineers and New England Aquarium’s Amy Knowlton, have been testing the buoyless system which, if implemented, would allow lobster fishermen to continue fishing local waters without putting the North Atlantic Right Whale population at risk.
The prototype itself consists of an acoustical release system which has a modem attached to high density foam. When sent by a transducer to a modem at the top of the unit, the buoy which sits at the ocean floor is released using the foam flotation device allowing it to rise to the surface along with a one mile length of lobster gear. When not in use, the buoy and all the line and gear attached to it rest at the ocean floor where there is a reduced risk of interference with the North Atlantic Right Whale.
So far, in 9 trials at sea on Palombo’s boat the FV Terri-Ann, pictures above, the system has not disappointed with a 100% success rate. These trials consisted of a two-day trip in Cape Cod Bay with 8 deployments in up to 140 feet of water, and 1 deployment 65 miles south of Nantucket in 250 feet of water.
We commend Coach Palombo and his team on their efforts to protect these whales and preserve the local maritime and fishing communities for future generations to come.
Looking ahead, on November 13th Marc will speak as an advocate for this new system at the Ropeless Consortium Meeting as a part of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (NARWC) in Portland, Maine. The only downside - he will have to miss practice that day!
For more on this amazing effort check out the New York Times article on featuring Marc and the local protection efforts here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/