Rescuers untangle a gray whale from ghost net off the coast of California.


New smart buoys can track and monitor all types of deployed fishing gear and report directly to a cell phone or website.

The small, three pound buoys are just seven inches in diameter and are tough enough to handle the harshest ocean conditions.

Kortney Opshaug is CEO and founder of Blue Ocean Gear.

“All the information is collected in a database. And then we have both a mobile app that you can access from your phone or a web interface that allows them to see a little bit more of the data, charts and things like that. Most of the buoys have satellite transmission, but some also have radio transmission. So we’re working more and more with that. They’re slightly more cost effective, and we can create networks out on the water who are talking to one another.”

Opshaug and her California-based team were motivated primarily by the impacts of lost gear on the marine environment and the costs to fishermen.

“And as we as we explored the space, it became very clear that lost fishing gear was one of the most devastating issues that had both environmental impacts as well as financial impacts on the industry. There’s about 640,000 metric tons of gear lost every year. And that gear continues to fish. And those nets and traps and lines are never harvested. So it becomes devastating for the marine ecosystems, but it’s also unlimited competition for the fishermen from their own gear that they’ve lost. Plus, they have to pay to replace that gear. So we developed our smart buoys to be able to track gear on the water, we kind of thought, well, if you could track it, you’re not as likely to lose it.”

The buoys also track temperature, depth and other data that can be later analyzed. They last a full season between charges, and don’t require any special training to use.

In just a few short years, the smart buoys are being used in fisheries on the east coast, Canada, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

In Alaska the buoys were field tested in Bering Sea crab pots, on halibut longlines and a first order has come from a Southeast kelp farm.

The Blue Ocean team is getting assists from the Alaska Ocean Cluster.