The Swordfish Deep-Set Buoy Gear (DSBG) experimental fishery is a low-bycatch alternative to traditional commercial gear targeting swordfish, such as pelagic longlines and drifting gillnets. DSBG reduces bycatch by setting beneath the thermocline, where non-targeted species are uncommon. Importantly, for every fisher that transitions from traditional longline and gillnet fisheries to the DSBG fishery, the amount of high-risk gear in the water decreases.
A major challenge to the transition in this fishery is the limitations on relocating the gear in rough or foggy conditions and at night. For DSBG, one vertical line is attached to a floating buoy with a hook set at the target depth. When multiple buoys are set simultaneously, they can drift apart, and when a fish is hooked, it can drag the connected buoy out of sight of the other buoys. In these instances, it is not uncommon for fishers to spend hours searching for buoys, and gear can be lost. Lost gear can become ghost gear, which would then indiscriminately fish both target and off-target species for years.
However, by using smart buoys, fishers will always know exactly where their lines are and can quickly recover them. This not only prevents gear from being lost, but also drastically decreases the amount of time spent looking for gear, in turn increasing the catch rate. In addition, fishers do not have to keep in visual contact of their gear, which improves the fishing experience by decreasing exposure to dangerous conditions on deck.
This project outfitted two swordfish DSBG vessels registered to an Experimental Fishing permit off the coast of southern California with Farallon Smart Buoys from Blue Ocean Gear. Support for the project was provided by Santa Monica Seafoods, which has been an integral component in the transition to DSBG since its inception. Updates will be provided after implementation, after the season, and the beginning of the next season in the fall of 2024.
December 04, 2023
Blue Ocean Gear Farallon Smart Buoys have been shipped to both participating vessels. Next steps are training and implementation in fishing operations.
December 15, 2023
DSBG swordfish fishers have begun to use the Smart Buoys. The first day of fishing, the fishing vessel Audax caught a nice swordfish and were able to continue to track the fish after the sunset without the concern of losing their other sets thanks to the attached smart buoys. Read more in this Facebook post by Blue Ocean Gear.