article / 1 June 2023

Ashored Innovations: Hardware and Software for Sustainable Fishing

In this Conservation Tech Showcase case study from Ashored Innovations, we’ll learn how conservation technology is transforming fishing techniques to safeguard marine wildlife. 

This case study in our Conservation Tech Showcase highlights Ashored Innovations, who provide innovative and sustainable solutions to promote environmentally-friendly fishing practices while protecting marine life. 

About Ashored Innovations

Ashored Innovations is a hardware and software company that focuses on promoting sustainable fishing practices and protecting marine life through innovative solutions, enhancing the efficiency of fishermen while safeguarding at-risk marine habitats. 

Based in Canada, the company operates primarily in Canada and the United States, but has plans to extend its reach to Europe and South America. 

Through its work, Ashored Innovations seeks to create a sustainable future for both the fishing industry and the environment as leading innovators in the emerging field of gear technology. Founded by fishermen, the company has developed gear with fishermen's interests in mind thanks to its founders' industry expertise. 

Ashored Innovations also values input from stakeholders, actively seeking opportunities to improve its technology. Through traveling internationally to conferences and setting up one-on-one meetings, Ashored Innovations ensures that it is creating the best possible technology for all parties involved.

What are the challenges facing the fishing industry?

The fishing industry is facing several challenges, including the significant impact of vertical fishing line entanglements on marine animals such as North American Right Whales, sea turtles, seals, porpoises, dolphins, and other whale species. Abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear is also contributing to plastic pollution in the ocean, resulting in approximately 700,000 tons of ocean waste and plastics annually. Lost gear continues to “ghost fish” and is directly responsible for a global decline in fish stocks, which reduces available catch quotas and breaks the traceability of sustainable fishing practices. 

Overall, there is a need for concerted efforts from various stakeholders to address the challenges facing the fishing industry and promote sustainable fishing practices.

What is Ashored Innovations' solution for trap fisheries and conservation issues?

Ashored Innovations is pioneering a new kind of gear for trap fisheries that addresses global conservation issues such as marine mammal entanglement, marine debris, and ghost fishing in the global oceans. The company developed a suite of technologies to help trap-based crab and lobster fishers pursue their fishery while also mitigating these challenges. Specifically, Ashored Innovations is developing and commercializing 'ropeless' or 'rope-on-command' (ROC) fishing solutions that coil vertical fishing lines connected to lobster and crab traps on the seafloor in a contained unit with a recovery buoy. When commanded by an acoustic signal, the rope and buoy rise to the surface for retrieval. 

Ashored’s Gear by Molly Glickman

The company is also developing sophisticated data analytics software to monitor when the gear was deployed and retrieved, map the gear’s configuration and location, and provide automatic e-logging capabilities for fisherman and regulators. 

What is the potential impact of ropeless gear on marine life and the fishing industry?

The development of ropeless gear has been identified as a critical solution for protecting marine life from buoy rope entanglements that pose significant threats to marine species, and for facilitating trap-based fishing in areas subject to closures. The deployment of ropeless gear will not only benefit the environment but also support the livelihoods of fishers globally by enabling them to operate in previously restricted areas, thus representing an essential step toward a more sustainable fishing industry.

Fixed trap fishermen are not the sole drivers of economic impact in the fishing industry. Lost or damaged fixed trap gear also poses a significant problem, causing monetary and ecological damage. The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) was established to address the impact of abandoned fishing gear on the environment. 

Ashored’s Gear Boat by Molly Glickman

With over 80 participants across 50 organizations, including the fishing industry, private sector, academia, governments, and non-governmental groups, GGGI found that ghost fishing gear poses four times the threat of entanglement to marine life compared to all other marine debris combined. Additionally, it is accountable for a 10% decline in global fish stocks, leading to reduced yields, income, food losses, and waste, and worsening the global marine plastics and microplastics issue.

The lobster and crab fisheries in Canada and the United States are lucrative, with a global trade value of $2.1 billion and $1 billion respectively in 2018. However, the closure of fishing grounds around Atlantic Canada due to whale protection efforts is causing significant economic losses of up to $25,000 per vessel, creating a commercial opportunity for technology that enables fishing in otherwise restricted areas. Ropeless fishing gear, such as that pioneered by Ashored Innovations, is one such technology that could mitigate these losses. California has already approved ropeless gear for commercial fishing in fishery closures, as it is recognized by the Department of Fish and Wildlife as the only reliable means to eliminate entanglement risks for marine species while still allowing fishers to continue their work. The new regulations came into effect on November 1st, 2020, and such developments highlight that Ashored Innovations’ technology is well-suited to meet the need for ropeless gear.

What are the challenges and opportunities associated with the authorization of ropeless fishing solutions?

The authorization of ropeless fishing solutions poses a challenge that could affect revenue and market adoption. While the global consensus is in favor of ropeless gear, the question is when and under what circumstances it will be authorized. Currently, commercial crab and lobster fishermen can apply for section 52 permits to use ropeless gear on an experimental basis during off-season fishing. 

Recently, the permits have been extended to include the normal fishing seasons. In 2020, ten commercial crab fishermen utilized these experimental permits, and their strong enthusiasm and buy-in led them to reapply for 2021 to continue fishing in a similar fashion. The success of these experimental permits signals the potential for the wider adoption of ropeless gear in the future.

Ashored’s Gear Explained by Molly Glickman

Ashored's success with ropeless fishing gear is not solely reliant on regulatory approval. Although approval would greatly benefit the company, grants from sources like the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, Innovative Solutions Canada, and others provide financial support to get ropeless gear into the hands of local fishermen. 

Ashored’s Gear Animation by Molly Glickman

Ashored is also in communication with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is becoming more involved in developing conservation-oriented ropeless fishing approaches. The company's ATLAS gear tracking and location components also address the DFO's concerns about gear-overlay and multispecies fisheries in the same area.

Fishermen are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of ropeless fishing technology, including the ability to fish effectively while minimizing harm to marine life and reducing ocean pollution. Despite the financial costs, there is growing acceptance and understanding of the potential long-term benefits. Fishermen understand that they may face future zone closures, but are generally proactive in their approach and eager to adopt new technologies that contribute to the conservation and protection of marine species.

How can I engage with Ashored Innovations? 

By actively seeking out opportunities to improve its technology and incorporating input and criticism from all stakeholders, Ashored Innovations is poised to make a significant impact in promoting a sustainable future for the fishing industry and the environment. By supporting Ashored Innovations' innovative ropeless gear for trap fisheries, you can help mitigate the impact of vertical fishing line entanglements on marine animals, reduce plastic pollution in the ocean, and promote sustainable fishing practices. 

If you’re interested in collaborating or have expertise to offer, contact [email protected] to find out how to get involved.

Explore the 2023 Conservation Tech Showcase

Our new Conservation Tech Showcase is a series exploring successes and bold ideas in the world of conservation technology, shared through case studies about exciting projects from outstanding organizations around the world.

Learn more about the series and its case studies here on WILDLABS.

Add the first post in this thread.

Want to share your own conservation tech experiences and expertise with our growing global community? Login or register to start posting!