Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Development of Tuna Tracking Buoys Will Please Fishing Lobby - but at What Cost?

French Group Increases Efficiency of Fleet but Some Species Already Under Threat
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – WORLDWIDE – Orolia, global specialist in critical global positioning system (GPS) applications, announced this week that it has been awarded a €1 million+ contract from developer of services and applications for the maritime industry, Thalos SAS, for the supply of tuna fish aggregating device (FAD) tracking buoys. Whilst one might hope this is with the intent of ensuring the future of a highly sought after food resource, it seems in fact it is yet another weapon designed to speed the decimation of another pelagic species by increasing the efficiency of fishing fleets.

The order was placed as a result of Orolia’s successful launch of the first ever FAD Multibeam tuna tracking buoy incorporating five independent echo sounders and the signing of a new two year exclusive agreement that gives Thalo SAS the rights to independently manage the FAD tuna tracking buoy software and services for their existing extensive tuna fishing customer base and to further develop market leading innovative enhancements and software solutions for this system. In addition, this exclusive agreement, which started at the end of January 2013, will give Thalos the exclusive right to sell the software and tuna buoy into the global tuna seine fishing market.

The new Multibeam tuna buoy and onboard software gives tuna fishermen the ability to monitor fish activity under and around the Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) more constantly and accurately, providing them with the information to make more cost effective decisions as to when to make the often long journey to revisit the site of theFAD. Commenting on the contract, Jean-Yves Courtois, CEO of the Orolia Group, said:

“After the notification of 2 contracts in 2012 for the supply of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) for the observation of fishing fleets and the supply of beacons to track fishing boat fleets and oil slicks, this new contract underlines our capacity and expertise in developing positioning and communication equipment for mobile objects, which are exposed to particularly extreme environmental conditions (flooding, hard impacts or vibrations, high humidity or dust, etc.).

“Future generations of fishing products will require ever greater levels of specialist technical knowledge and customer specific solutions and services. These products will be based on further integration of different technologies and data.”

Claude Barraud, CEO of Thalos SAS explained that the contract with Orolia enables Thalos to have a direct handle on the software technology and on the operations of the FAD tuna tracking system. Barraud continued:

“Thalos is therefore ideally positioned to meet the rapidly changing requirements of the global tuna fishing market, whilst allowing customers to benefit from new and reactive in-house technical developments that were until now not possible. Thalos will in particular build further customer-oriented software solutions that are smoothly integrated with Orolia's tuna buoys, while directly ensuring the continuous availability of the service. This contract is an important milestone in the provision by Thalos of integrated services and solutions for the global tuna fishing market."

Critics such as Greenpeace say that the vast investments made by the tuna fleet operators render it imperative that they continue to seine net as many fish as possible, a fishing method which has met with international opprobrium for its lack of selectivity, dolphins for instance are vulnerable to some tuna netting operations and some of the fifteen or so varieties of tuna such as the Southern Bluefin have already been netted to near extinction, a development which led to friction between Japan and Australia.

Scientists say the problem with FAD’s is that they attract many pelagic species in an otherwise featureless ocean surface, this results in a devastating mortality rate for by catch species including turtles, even whale sharks and other high level fish species when seine nets are employed, an indiscriminate method which takes over 60% of the world’s total tuna catch.

Photo: A purse seine net with inset an Orolia FAD. Courtesy of PEW Charitable Trusts.