In pelagic fisheries, fishermen usually spend exponentially more time and fuel searching for fish than they do actually catching the fish. Even with advanced technology, the cost of finding fish is high.

To increase efficiency, TASA, the largest fishing company in Peru, has contracted with Kongsberg Marine of Norway to buy an unmanned surface vehicle that could hunt for fish at a fraction of the cost of a fully manned fishing vessel. Kongsberg reports that the USV is part of TASA’s plan to upgrade its 48-vessel fleet.

Equipped with high-definition SX90 fishery sonar in combination with an ES80 wideband echosounder from Simrad, the USV can search large expanses of ocean and transmit data to land-based receiver and fishing vessels. The robotic craft can be operated through laptop or radio control with data telemetry for remote operations.

The 26.5-foot USV has a 7.3-foot beam and draws 2.3 feet. For receiving commands and transmitting data, the vessel has a mast that reaches 14.4 feet above the sea surface. A 125-hp Steyr Diesel engine can power the vessel at 12 knots, but at 4 knots the USV can cruise for more than 20 days. The vessel can run autonomously or under supervised control via a K-MATE autonomy engine, with communication through Maritime Broadband Radio/Iridium (VSAT optional).

“TASA has been quick to recognize the fact that the Sounder USV will introduce a new way of thinking to businesses in the fishery industry,” says Morten Kville, sales manager (Simrad products) at Kongsberg Maritime. “We predict that the Sonar USV will become a pivotal tool in the evolution of sustainable fisheries all over the world.”

Besides TASA, some large U.S. companies are interested in the new technology. Unfortunately, coronavirus has delayed delivery of the USV to TASA. The vessel remains in Norway awaiting shipment to Peru at the earliest opportunity.

Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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