A green ribbon for connected fishing nets

A research laboratory of the Bordeaux campus has developed an underwater device that locates lost fishing nets. This project, called FIND, received an award on January 20th 2020 for its progress towards sustainable fishing.

  • 23/01/2020

Nicolas Lafargue, marin pêcheur, et Guillaume Ferré, enseignant-chercheur en communication numérique à l'IMS @ université de Bordeaux Nicolas Lafargue, marin pêcheur, et Guillaume Ferré, enseignant-chercheur en communication numérique à l'IMS @ université de Bordeaux

“I didn’t know anything about the marine environment before. I discovered it just over a year ago and have been fascinated ever since”, says Guillaume Ferré. The digital communication scientist and lecturer at the IMS laboratory* is the leader of a project concerning connected nets for sustainable fishing. This project, called FIND, was carried out between March and December 2019 and funded by the Idex University of Bordeaux Prematuration fund. It also benefited from the support of the innovation program “SPRING Ocean” (which is funded by the University of Bordeaux and backed by Aerospace Valley).

The aim of this project was to develop a method to localize fishing nets that have been lost at sea. These “connected” nets emit acoustic waves, and function with a localization system aboard the vessel, so that fishermen can easily find them. After only a year of existence, FIND is the recipient of the Green Ribbon award of the Blue Fish association in the category “Good environmental practices for sustainable fishing”. The ceremony took place on January 20th, 2020 at the European Parliament in Brussels.

A technical solution for an ecological problem

Although the loss of fishing nets is not frequent, it is problematic regarding economic and environmental aspects. “These nets, reaching up to 10 km in length, are expensive, and their search takes time and consumes fuel oil, the scientist explains. The catch is lost too.” Depending on the position of the net, it may also continue to entangle fish or other species, and its degradation represents an important source of plastic pollution.

Within the framework of FIND, Guillaume Ferré developed an underwater communication system between the fishing nets and the ship. A transmitter, called “pinger”, is placed on the net and emits acoustic waves. These are captured by receivers, or hydrophones, located on the fishermen’s vessel. “The system indicates the area from which the signal comes, explains the researcher. The closer the ship gets to the pinger, the better the system reads the signal and thus leads to the precise location of the lost net.” Installing several pingers on the same net presents the advantage of being able to find multiple pieces of a cut net.

The researcher obtained very promising results by modelling the localization procedure. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test the system in the open sea, as the weather conditions were too stormy. However, tests in freshwater allowed us to add small final adjustments and prove that the system works.”

“I really enjoyed meeting the fishermen, and as a scientist, I wondered what I could do to continue helping them. They are highly interested in technical solutions that contribute to reducing the environmental impact of their activity.” Strongly inspired by the results of the project FIND, Guillaume Ferré has already submitted a new project to the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and the EU, in order to develop additional, new functionalities for the system.

One of the goals of this new project is to avoid the accidental catch of cetaceans. Guillaume Ferré wants to develop a signal that both repulses cetaceans and allows the localization of the nets. Furthermore, depending on the turbidity of the water for instance, dolphins may not be able to spot the fishing nets. “In addition to the emission of repulsive waves, I would like to increase the echographic power of the nets by developing more reflective pingers.” Intent on limiting acoustic pollution, the scientist is working on a detection device that signals only when a net is lost or when it detects the presence of cetaceans. At these precise occasions, the pinger trigger will emit its acoustic waves.

With the Green Ribbon award, Guillaume Ferré also had the opportunity to present the project to European Parliament members. He hopes to have raised their awareness and to be able to find co-funding, in order to further develop this innovative project.

*IMS laboratory – Integration: from Material to Systems laboratory (CNRS, Bordeaux INP and University of Bordeaux)


Guillaume Ferré
Digital communication researcher and lecturer at the IMS laboratory (Signal and Image Group)