Innovation in deep-sea fishing: How we avoid by-catch and protect the oceans

innovation | Sustainability and climate protection | With oXeanpedia we make a small contribution to minimize the impact of fishing on the ecology of the oceans.

At the beginning of 2020 thyssenkrupp made it into the 100 most active companies in the European Patent Office’s ranking for the fifth time in succession. In 2019 alone the Group filed patents for more than 600 inventions worldwide for the first time. This innovative strength and the aim of developing the technologies of tomorrow today also drove our specialists at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems to develop the oXeanpedia underwater vehicle. The autonomous vehicle for sustainable deep-sea fishing to protect the biodiversity of our oceans is one of more than 22,000 innovations protected by patents in the company’s 125-year history.

Deep sea fishing must become more sustainable

Even today, deep-sea fishing is still under great pressure to fish both sustainably and cost-effectively. Above all, unwanted by-catch is a major problem in the industry: despite sophisticated technology on board and years of experience, captains can never know for sure exactly how a shoal of fish in their vicinity is composed. The result: In addition to the target fish, large quantities of other fish species and marine animals go into the fishermen’s nets and cost them valuable revenue. Because the by-catch must not simply be thrown back into the water. Instead, the fishermen have to bring their unloved prey ashore and sell it at low prices to fishmeal producers. A situation that neither fishermen nor fish are happy about.

To make fishing more lucrative for the fishing companies and protect the ecology of the seas from unnecessary by-catch, the developers at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems have developed an autonomous underwater vehicle called oXeanpedia which allows fishermen to check exactly what kind of shoal of fish is in their vicinity before casting their nets. The patented technology uses a camera to determine fish species and size distribution of the fish so that the fisherman can avoid catching them if they are a shoal of juveniles or a mixed shoal containing fish which are considered to be by-catch.

Patented basic technology for the autonomous underwater vehicle oXeanpedia

This basic technology has already been protected by patent DE 10 2017 216 608 B3. In the meantime, seven further patent applications have been filed, covering topics such as efficient manufacturing methods, navigation, optical detection or resumption of underwater vehicle. For example, oXeanpedia uses underwater intelligent algorithms to traverse the shoal of fish in a particularly efficient way to get a representative image of the fish. For the identification of the fish, methods based on artificial intelligence are used. This allows the system to quickly learn which fish it sees in a swarm.

In order to make oXeanpedia easy to use in everyday fishing life, the underwater vehicle was designed to be light enough to be thrown overboard by a fisherman alone and easily brought back to the vessel. In this way thyssenkrupp is making a small contribution to minimizing the impact of fishing on the ecology of the world’s oceans.

thyssenkrupp’s patent department is one of the oldest in the country. Each year the colleagues protect around 600 new innovations through patents. Dr. Stephan Wolke, CEO of thyssenkrupp’s central patent department at engineered, explains the work of the intellectual property expert.

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