Local company Fumunda Marine are making a big splash on the environmental scene with their acoustic, marine mammal repellent devices.
These alarms, know as ‘Pingers’, attach to fishing nets and emit a loud noise tailored to the hearing range of the most at-risk marine mammals including dolphins, porpoises and whales.
The dolphin and porpoise repelling Pingers operate at a frequency of 10kHZ, and the newly developed whale Pingers at 3kHZ.
According to the Australian Marine Mammal Centre (AMMC) an estimated 300,000 dolphins, porpoises and whales are caught in fishing nets every year, an average of just less than 1000 a day internationally.
The use of Pingers in Europe is now widely enforced under the European Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service in the USA, for most areas of commercial fishing.
Fumunda have recently sold 150 of these devices to the Kwazulu Sharks Board for deployment on shark nets during the annual Humpback migration.
In 2011, 50 whale Pingers were fitted to shark nets, and now an additional 100 whale alarms are being fitted this season following the success with the alarms in reducing humpback deaths last year.
Not only is it helping the environment by reducing the by-catch of marine mammals, it also results in fewer nets being destroyed and dumped where animals are caught and have to be cut out.
Pingers help significantly reduce costs and time spent repairing and replacing damaged nets, and have been proven to reduce fish loss due to predation on stock caught in nets.
Managing director James Turner said that marine conservation has always been close to his heart.
“I’m a life-long surfer, I think I have this natural affinity with the ocean and to see the deaths of so many animals when it is easily avoidable, there’s no excuse.
“Europe is doing the right thing, the USA too. There needs to be stricter policies on limiting by-catch and I’m very proud to be a part of the solution.”
Innovation Centre CEO Mark Paddenburg shares Mr Turner’s pride in the work being done at Fumunda.
“Fumunda asked that vital question, ‘What if?’ and saw the opportunity to make a difference; now they have a break-through product doing amazing things in the clean technology sector.
“What they’re doing in an office in the Innovation Centre, I’m happy to say has global significance.”
Fumunda is now looking to expand overseas, and develop new technologies in other problem areas.
Mr Turner said “there is still so much to be done, we have only looked at harbour porpoises, bottle-nosed dolphins and humpback whales.
“Our next priority is to find a way to limit the by-catch of seals and sea lions, and then perhaps even turtles.”
Mr Turner commended the opportunities and support Fumunda has received from both the directors and fellow entrepreneurs at the Innovation Centre, and at the local University.
International partnerships with over 20 different universities and environmental groups ensure Fumunda will continue their research and further their conservation capabilities.
By Leah Barber