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Thread: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
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    Pleasant Valley NS Canada
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    Default High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    So there is a company nearby to me – Clare Macine Works Ltd. (CMW) - that makes industrial equipment for the fishing industry – pot haulers, trawl winches, baiting & banding tables, etc. Nothing unusual there, though they do build very good quality stuff. They have recently developed a pot-stacking device for shipboard use that it pretty cool. Innovative, but not super high-tech. But it feeds into the high-tech bit, so I’ll have to explain it a bit before making my point:

    https://claremachineworks.com/wp-con...a-Trial-V2.mp4

    Moving lobster traps about on the deck of a heaving and rolling lobster boat is a hard task. A fully-ballasted and baited wire lobster trap weighs between eighty and one hundred pounds, and the deck crew needs to pick it up and move it into position on the deck so that it is ready for launching out over the open transom and back into the sea. This task needs to be done quickly because there are upwards of several hundred traps to haul, pick, rebait, and relaunch in a day, so time is of the essence. On a lumpy, blowy day this is a tough job. So CMW created a device to do the lifting and carrying. It is essentially a pair of parallel overhead rails running the length of the working deck that support a ‘thwartships girder that runs fore-and-aft on the overhead rails. A winch rides on the girder and can go from side-to-side on the girder so that it can reach any spot on the work deck. Both the girder and the winch base are moved by electrically-powered winch cables, as does the winch. The crewman now merely guides the trap ‘claw’ to the trap, and using trigger buttons on the claw mechanism, picks the trap up and ‘drives’ it to the desired location on deck, lowers it and disengages the claw. Much less physical strain on the crewman and reduced chance of injury.

    Now for the high tech bit:

    I was speaking with a couple of fisherman and boatbuilders on Friday about the equipment. One had recently been given a tour of the CMW facility and, specifically, saw a demonstration of the trap moving equipment. He reports that the current development is to control the claw, winch and cables by computer so that it can move and place the trap on deck without intervention by the crew. To facilitate this, microchips are embedded in the trap frame with epoxy so that a reader on the claw can recognize the trap, identify it by an assigned code, pick it up, move it to the desired location (previously assigned by the captain), set it down on the deck or even stack it on other traps, and remember where every trap on deck is located (necessary for placing the trap beside - or on top - of the last one). The deck crew merely makes sure that the claw is properly set on the trap at the baiting table, hits the ‘go’ button, and turns away to his next task. Very slick, and it will certainly make the deck crew’s job much safer and less physically demanding. I fully understand that this type of device is rather old-hat in industrial facilities on land, but this kind of tech is almost unheard of on small fishing boats. The environment is so brutal that most industrial gear breaks down in a year or less, plus it is sometimes a challenge to convince fishermen that pricey new-fangled gear is better than what they have used since boats were made of sticks and animal skins.

    Chipping each trap will open other possibilities, as the captain will now be able to monitor each trap for catch rates (a sudden drop means that something is wrong with that trap and it needs to be looked at) , age (traps get cycled out of use after a certain length of time), and operational tracking such as determining which bait works best in a certain location and time. Like the old advertising slogan used to say, “the possibilities are endless”.

    We’ve come a long way from my grandfather’s boat that had a crude hauler in the middle of the deck that was created from half of a Model T rear end with two wheels and tires mounted at waist level to pull the wooden pots up on their ropes.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 1999
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    Hyannis, MA, USA
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    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    Very much better than my college (late '60s) time decking on a lobster boat. Our traps were more like 50#, still brutal to keep up with unloading, pegging, and rebaiting as the string came up.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Cushing, Maine
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    4,134

    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    Canadian boats are considerably larger than even the offshore Maine boats. Maine's offshore boats may not be big enough to make this worthwhile.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  4. #4
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    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    Ian, no pegging nowadays, just rubber bands. There's a machine for that now, too.

    Ben, yes, the SW Nova boats are getting huge. Length remains fixed, as does max installed horsepower, but everything else seems to be growing exponentially. I just completed a weight estimate for the "little lobster boat" I am working on, and it appears that its full-load displacement (full fuel, full live wells, 5 crew and no traps on-board) will be north of 175,000 lbs.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  5. #5
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    Mar 2021
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    Digby County, Nova Scotia CANADA
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    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    Perhaps it was the video, but the process seemed a tad slow. Our kitchen view is of Grand Passage between Brier and Long Islands in SouthWest Nova Scotia. The boys look to be hauling and stacking quicker than this.

    Then again, during dumping and hauling days, when loaded up with nearly 100 traps stacked high it could be feasible.

    jb

  6. #6
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    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    I thought is was slow, too, jb. Much less strain on the crews' backs, though. But 100 traps on deck? The boat I am currently designing for a client stacks 250 on deck for dumping day.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Southern Maine
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    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    I designed a float that was held on the top of the trap, and time released, to when the lobsterman picks them up. With the idea of reducing the chances of a right whale entanglement. I sent it to Woods Hole and heard nothing.
    It would also reduce the chances of a propeller snagging the warp.

  8. #8
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    Mar 2021
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    Digby County, Nova Scotia CANADA
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    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    MMD, for sure those bigger boats are massive.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    Still limited to 15m (49'-2") LOA, though. Just getting fatter.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
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    494

    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    Quote Originally Posted by mmd View Post
    Still limited to 15m (49'-2") LOA, though. Just getting fatter.
    It seems to me these classification rules end up causing some compromises in design that most likely lead to safety and performance issues.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  11. #11
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    Default Re: High tech coming to the lowly lobster trap

    Definitely performance issues are in play at the moment, as the sheer amount of horsepower to move the boats is pretty high - 500 hp is in the kiddie leagues, 700 is becoming normal, and 1,000 (or more) is not uncommon. Seaworthiness seems to be acceptable so far, mostly because the boats have such huge initial stability and their CofG is quite low. Most boats (at least in my region) are converting to flooded live wells, so the future ramifications of carrying all that water is yet to be determined. So far OK, though. Structural issues seem to be pretty few so far, other than the broad beam creates a short roll period, so things up high - antennae, radomes, crab lights, etc. - get tossed about pretty violently at times. I haven't heard of much gear failure, but have been told about really big antennae getting whipped so violently that the antenna breaks. Lastly, the short, quick roll period makes standing on deck a bit of a challenge, but fishermen seem to feel that is acceptable as long as they can carry huge loads of traps.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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