Ropeless fishing reduces whale entanglements, UCT study finds

The use of ropeless techniques by fisheries greatly reduces the risk of whales getting entangled, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has found.

Bryde’s whales, which can be found in South African waters, are particularly vulnerable to entanglements in trap fishing ropes because of their ability to dive deep and fast to catch their food. Such entanglements can sometimes result in drowning, but new technology could prevent them from occurring.

The World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-funded study, the first of its kind in South Africa, examined the use of ropeless fishing devices, which remove the need for floating ropes between the water surface and ocean floor. These devices allow traps to be deployed in waters without a surface buoy indicating their position. 

“We specifically looked at the whales because they are the ones that get trapped in these ropes,” said Colin Attwood, an associate professor at UCT. The researchers found that the appropriate ropeless fishing techniques would increase costs by less than 5%, making them economically feasible for fisheries. However, the researchers will continue to focus on the technology’s financial viability. 

“Future research will look at the financial viability of the equipment because it is quite expensive. There might be some resistance from the fishing industry so it will be important for us to work with them [the fishing industry] so that we can save the whales.”

Other whale species that face the risk of being entangled include the southern right and humpback whales because of their natural tendency to investigate floating objects like rope and kelp.

An octopus fishery in False Bay has been using ropeless technology since the beginning of 2020 and has not had any whale entanglements since then.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Marcia Zali
Marcia Zali is an award winning journalist

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

Roads flooded, buildings washed away in latest Durban downpour

No deaths have been reported after mudslides caused by heavy weekend rains

Nthikeng Mohlele comes up short with ‘The Discovery of Love’

The talented novelist Nthikeng Mohlele’s debut short-story collection lacks the vitality that makes short stories magical

What is at the root of white anxiety in post-apartheid...

Some white people think any discussion of racism or its legacy is an attempt to shame or condemn them for the ‘sin’ of their whiteness

OPINION| ANC’s socialist thinking is crushing South Africa’s future

The Cold War ended more than three decades ago. That period of history showed that socialism, at a country scale, is unsustainable
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×