On-Demand Gear Library at Northeast Fisheries Science Center


On-demand systems at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center equipment library in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

In our current collection we have experimental gear designed to remove the vertical buoy line from the water column. This significantly reduces the risk of entanglement for large whales. These systems use very little vertical line that can entangle whales; Instead, they rely on other methods to bring equipment to the surface for salvage.

After completing a day of on-site training, commercially licensed fishermen and researchers can rent pop-up buoys, inflatable lift bag systems and buoyant reels. In return, borrowers must provide us with information on how the equipment on their ships works, problems encountered and suggestions for improving technologies. This feedback is shared with manufacturers and others developing marketable on-demand equipment and recovery systems.

If you have gear that you would like to add to the library, contact [email protected]

Who can borrow equipment?

We are currently prioritizing loans to commercial fishermen in the greater New England area affected by temporary area closures. There are also a number of requirements that participants and vessels must meet in order to rent equipment.

How to rent equipment

Submit a request to borrow fishing gear on demand from our library. We look forward to working with you!

What’s in the Gear library

pop-up buoys

An example of a pop-up buoy-on-demand trap system available from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center Gear Library in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The components include (from left to right) an audible trigger mechanism, the transducer cable, a deck controller, and a buoy.

The vertical line is stowed in a cage that sits on the seabed and is attached to the end of a series of traps. When a signal is sent from the surface to the transducer in the cage, the line and buoyant device are released up to the surface where the vessel can then retrieve the gear in the normal manner.

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Inflatable lifting bags

An inflatable lift bag (left) supporting the cage (visible just below the surface) which houses the compressed air tanks that inflate the bag. The small buoy on the right is connected to the cage by a line that allows gear to be hauled onto the fishing vessel. This gear is available from the Gear Library at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

A lift bag is attached to a cage containing pressurized air tanks similar to those used for scuba diving. The cage is attached to the end of a series of traps. A signal is sent from the surface to the transducer in the basket, which inflates the lift bag and brings the basket to the surface, ready for recovery.

Floatable coils

An example of an on demand buoyant coil. From left to right: an Acoustic Deck Controller Box, a transducer cable and the buoyant pulley. This gear is available from the Gear Library at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The line wrapped around the buoyant spool is connected to an anchor or weight on the seabed. Once the release signal is sent down the transducer cable, a release device on the spool opens, allowing the spool to unwind as it floats to the surface.

program requirements

There are a number of requirements for participants and their operation, which are summarized below. Download the official details (pdf, 2 pages).

permits and landings

  • An active/valid state or federal commercial fishing license
  • The dealer has confirmed the 3 year landing history in the last 5 years
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research ability

  • 24/7 access to a ship to move and salvage gear and the ability to grab lost gear if needed
  • A written plan to mitigate potential equipment conflicts
  • Basic computer skills required to operate the tablet and software.
  • Willingness to: Coordinate with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center on equipment modifications as needed; if necessary, allow observers/engineers on the ship; and attend training and support to demonstrate proficiency in the borrowed system
  • Obligation: to return the equipment in the same form in which it was borrowed, understanding that normal wear and tear occurs; Return of equipment to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center upon completion of research (within 3 months unless an extension is specifically granted)
  • Commitment to: Assuming liability to yourself or the crew for any personal risk or property damage related to the use of the On-Demand Equipment; Sharing data in accordance with the program data policy

Ship Safety Standards

  • The ship must be intact, seaworthy and able to navigate to the planned research site
  • Carry a current Fishing Vessel Safety Label issued by the US Coast Guard as required for vessels operating in federal waters
  • Meet all federal safety, firefighting and rescue equipment requirements for commercial fishing vessels
  • Carry personal flotation devices and survival craft in sufficient numbers and capacity to accommodate all on board, including scientific visitors, and of the type required for a ship of its size, class and service
  • Keep a navigational watch at all times while the ship is at sea
  • Have an emergency power source capable of supplying the connected emergency loads without interruption for at least 3 hours and located in a room or cabinet other than the engine room. Batteries of sufficient size and capacity can serve as a sufficient backup power source
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Data collection and processing requirements

  • Collect data on every haul fished on demand
  • Collect data on the NOAA fishery-approved data sheet
  • Provide data to NOAA Fisheries within 30 days of system use
  • Data related to the operation of the on-demand system is public information. Specific information such as the name of the fisherman, the name of the vessel and the location of the catch will be redacted to the extent required by law. The general location where the equipment was tested (e.g. statistical area, offshore vs. near shore) is likely to be shared to the extent required or permitted by law.



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