The Australian company is working with fishermen around the world in an effort to stop more than 300 000 dolphins and porpoises being killed in commercial gillnets annually.

Fumunda Marine’s director, James Turner, says that the snaring of dolphins and porpoises in gillnets is largely preventable by correctly deploying pingers. “Studies in the US and Europe have shown that pingers attached to gillnets can reduce dolphin and porpoise by-catch by up to 95 per cent,” he says.

The use of pingers is compulsory for large fishing vessels in some areas of Europe and the US, but Turner believes more and more fishermen will choose to use them because the costs of non-targeted species by-catch are high.

“Dolphin and porpoise by-catch can cause significant damage to the nets, resulting in expensive repairs and lost fishing time,” says Turner. “Depredation – whereby dolphins eat the intended catch – can also be reduced significantly by using pingers.”

“There are other pingers on the market overseas but ours is unique. It has been designed by fishermen, based on their precise understanding of the often harsh on-board working conditions experienced at sea. Fumunda pingers emit a 10 kHz frequency at 132 dB every four seconds, which over the past decade has proven to be the most effective for reducing dolphin and porpoise by-catch.

“Our pingers are also more durable and significantly smaller than many others on the market and include a water contact switch so they do not need to be individually switched on each time the net is deployed, saving fishermen valuable time.

"They are powered by a replaceable battery, which makes them more cost-efficient, compared to pingers that need to be replaced when battery life is over.” The batteries also make the Fumunda pingers more environmentally friendly, as discarded pingers are virtually impossible to recycle.

The elliptical shape of the pinger makes it easier to attach to nets, and the tapered ends prevent tangling and snagging when nets are being deployed and retrieved.

The pinger is also audible to humans, obviating the need to carry expensive analysing equipment to confirm that devices are functioning.

Fumunda Marine is already talking to peak fishing bodies in Australia and overseas about how it can roll out its product.

“We are a commercial business modelled on a ‘social enterprise’ philosophy, meaning that we believe for-profit companies must take responsibility for important environmental issues where appropriate,” Turner says. “Clearly we see the potential loss of numerous dolphin and porpoise species, many of them endangered, as an important issue.”  
 

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