Students from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) have been recognised for their innovative designs for devices to reduce the incidental capture of seals during trawl fishing.


Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck visited the IMAS Launceston Campus to announce the winners of the competition which was jointly sponsored by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA).


“It is great to see such innovation and enthusiasm from students to design ‘real’ solutions for challenges faced by Australia’s trawl fisheries,” said Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck. “Congratulations to the winner, Tommy Cheo and his Nagging Siren design. It’s encouraging to see a student interested in developing potential solutions to address real issues faced by industry.


Tommy Cheo came up with the winning design – the ‘Nagging Siren’, which is a mechanical device towed behind the boat or attached to the fishing gear that, when dragged through the water, emits an irritating noise intended to deter seals from entering the area around the fishing operations.


Ben uit den Bogaard came second with the ‘SealYa Later’, which is a grid of flexible electrodes that carry a small DC current across the mouth of the net. The source of the current will be provided by specially designed battery units that are fitted to the head rope of the trawl. The mild fields of DC current will cause an uncomfortable sensation and deter the seals from entering the net.


In third place was Tana McCarthy’s ‘Illuminator’ – a system of lights and reflectors designed to aid seals to orientate themselves in the net and increase their ability to escape. The illuminated and flashing panels of the net will increase the probability of seals finding their way out of the mouth of the net and also through an escape hatch.


An honourable mention went to Jack Hauser’s ‘Seal Mask’. The Seal Mask is a system of canisters containing chemical irritants and dyes that would be released around the boat and the net. This cloud of substances released is designed to mask the fishing operation, confusing seal senses and deterring them from entering the mouth of the net. The ingredients used in Seal Mask are natural products that are not harmful to seals.


Study our Bachelor of Marine and Antarctic Science and you too can come up with innovative solutions!