Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Technology for Finding Fish

By Kathy A. Smith

As today’s technologies continue to be developed in many industries and for personal use, they are finding their way into marine electronics and making the job of catching fish easier.

One item that’s new on the horizon for navigation products is NavNet TZtouch from Camas, Washington-headquartered Furuno USA, Inc. the first multi-touch-based system in the industry. “It comes as a standard chart plotter, and you can add as many features as you want like radar, fish finders and AIS components,” says Jeff Kauzlaric, Advertising & Communications Manager.

The multi-function display allows users to easily scroll charts and move between screens. A unique RotoKey can be turned to zoom in and out, and when depressed, a touch screen menu appears. The “pinch-to-zoom” function is similar to the movement used on a smart phone or IPad. Moving through the chart and adding or deleting waypoints or creating a completely new route can be done quickly with a high degree of accuracy. “One of the things with traditional chart plotters that has been cumbersome to do is enter in routes and waypoints. You have to get into menus to do that kind of thing. With TZtouch, now you can just touch the screen and it becomes active,” he says.

And building on the NavNet 3D multi-function display (the difference is the keypad control), the user can view a chart in 3D mode by simply taking two fingers and swiping up on the display. It also has built-in WIFI for downloading, for instance, weather forecasts which are overlayed on a chart in the weather screen. The system can also be connected to smart phones and tablets and comes in a 9-inch or 14-inch design. “If you’re on the back of the boat and you want to take a look at what you’re going over right now, you can actually pull up the fish finder screen on your phone,” Kauzlaric adds.

The company’s MaxSea TimeZero PC charting software product can also be connected to the NavNet TZtouch and NavNet 3D products. “If you wanted, you could begin planning a route on a chart at home and put in different waypoints and then when you’re on the boat, you can transfer the information through your laptop’s Ethernet system and then start up the MaxSea software and it would transfer it over. It also has a personal bathymetric generator so you can take the information that’s coming in from the sounder and it will draw the seafloor surface in 3D. That’s really useful for finding out where the fish are.”

Furuno’s BR500 BNWAS, Bridge Navigation Watch Alarm System is an alarm/alert system that will sound various alarms on the bridge or in navigator staterooms and living quarters if it senses inactivity on the bridge for a predetermined period of time. “The only way you can turn it off is if you go up onto the bridge,” says Kauzlaric. “It eliminates somebody falling asleep or somebody getting hurt who is unable to operate the vessel and it warns the crew to come up to the bridge and deal with the situation.”
Kauzlaric say’s it’s mandatory on larger vessels like tankers, “but we’re starting to see the commercial fishing industry take note. They’re out there working for hours at a time and, as they’re motoring back, they need to make sure they’re staying awake.” The device can be hooked up several ways, for instance with a toggle switch that when hit, automatically resets the timer or it can be hooked into the radar system or to a motion sensor.

When it comes to electronic navigation product trends, Erik Sundholm, Vice President of Seattle-headquartered Harris Electric, Inc., a marine electronics dealer and electrical contractor, says, “In our region, Electronic Charts Co. (ECC) has been the industry standard for more than a decade. It offers navigation software with special features such as terrain building by interfacing with a depth sounder, has a 3D module and specialized updates like the Yearly Alaskan Rookeries. Olex, a Norwegian software program that is distributed by Simrad Fisheries, is a bathymetric chart plotter that has gained popularity and market share over that past few years. In addition, we see Nobeltec and Furuno’s MaxSea on a lot of our customers’ vessels. The most popular radar model for our fishing customers is the Furuno FR 21x7 series.”

Besides its Seattle location, the company also operates year-round out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska and seasonally out of Naknek, Alaska, where they operate stores for those fishing for crab, Pollock and salmon. “It’s not as busy as it has been but in Alaska, they are starting to build new vessels, so capital investment is starting to occur.”

Sundholm says over the years, he has seen electronic equipment become more sophisticated. “It reflects what is happening with technology in our world,” he says. “Think about how much more sophisticated an iPhone is compared to a mobile phone of 10 years ago. The equipment is integrated much more than it used to be.”

Simrad Fisheries’ Olex 3D Bathymetric plotter includes traditional navigation features like waypoints, ARPA, AIS, routing, autopilot interface and sequencing along a route. As Michael Hillers, General Manager of the Lynnwood, Washington company says: “Simrad Fisheries is primarily focused on fishing acoustics and navigating toward the fish. This is accomplished in two ways; a sonar detects fish targets up to several thousand meters away and the vessel advances towards them; or bottom data is collected on the Olex, which allows a fisherman to navigate towards the fish based upon the bottom contours and bottom hardness. This puts the fishermen in the proper location to target fish or shellfish based upon the Olex’s recorded fish or shellfish habitat.

The ability to map the seafloor for both contours and habitat exists as does the ability to determine the length of the fish and the biomass in an area. This is due to the ES70 echosounder and the ES70-Olex interface. In fisheries acoustics, the long-term goal is species identification. The ability to target the right species and the right size of the target species is the key to sustainable fisheries. These tools and the ability to implement these tools into a system that allows only the right fish to be caught is the goal.”

Trawl monitoring is the next step to sustainability. For that purpose, Simrad has developed a unique camera system called the FX80 that allows real-time video of the activity in and around the trawl to be viewed in the wheelhouse. In 2007, the company first introduced a series of sensors to measure distances between points of a deployed trawl. This allowed trawl manufacturers to measure excluder flaps; to show the flap opening and how far they open. In conjunction with depth, the sensors and a recording camera placed strategically on the net, an idea of how the net was “flying” could be determined. However, the camera footage could only be viewed when the camera was retrieved, hindering gathering real-time data.

There were two critical design issues, explains Hillers. “No fisherman would be willing to lose his third wire trawl sonar picture, so the camera needed to work simultaneously with the trawl sonar, and we needed the video to come up 3,000 meters of existing coax cable and through a set of sliprings. In initial tests in 2010 we hoped to achieve five frames a second, however we achieved 25 frames per second.”

Hillers reports the first commercial use of the FX80 on a commercial fishing vessel will take place in August in the Bering Sea. In addition to the initial installation on a Bering Sea Pollock trawler, additional units are being installed on ground fish vessels fishing in the Gulf of Alaska this summer.

“The FX80 concept has been very well received by fishermen as well as the door and trawl manufacturers who are very anxious to have the ability to actually see what’s going on underwater,” he says. “There is no shortage of ideas being proposed for trawling regarding capturing the target fish and leaving the by-catch in the water alive and unharmed. Real-time video is going to have an explosive impact upon implementation of these ideas. This product continues our philosophy of promoting green fishing by using technology to leave the non-target species and the over or undersized of the target species in the water intact and healthy.”

FN Online Advertising