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Annual Meeting

2018 Annual Meeting

The 2017 North Atlantic right whale (NARW) unusual mortality event—in which 17 whales, about four percent of the population, died of human causes—has driven significant interest in ropeless trap/pot fishing. Removing the vertical buoy lines used to mark and haul traps on the sea floor from the water column will eliminate the threat of entanglement, the leading cause of NARW mortality, while potentially allowing fishermen to continue harvesting in areas that would otherwise be closed.

At the Ropeless Consortium meeting, researchers and manufacturers discussed a variety of ropeless technological replacements for the marking and retrieval functions of buoy lines, including acoustic and GPS marking systems and six different lift bag and bottom-stowed rope retrieval designs. Lobster and snow crab fishermen from Massachusetts, New Brunswick, and California and/or their NGO partners shared their experience testing ropeless systems and feedback to improve their commercial operation. U.S. and Canadian federal regulators discussed prospects to use ropeless fishing gear in areas that are or could become closed to fishing with a vertical line, as well as other options to reduce the threat of entanglement, namely reduced breaking strength rope. Massachusetts fishery management officials shared additional regulatory considerations involved in ropeless fishing in state waters. Sustainable seafood certifiers discussed consumer market advantages for whale-safe products as well as their plans to update bycatch ratings in their certification standards, and researchers involved in the sustainable seafood process discussed their approach to improving the ecosystem impacts of fishing from certification to marketing. Finally, angel investors expressed their interest in the ropeless fishing gear market. Presentations are available here.

At the meeting, a Ropeless Consortium Board was formed with the election of the following Board Members:

  • Chair: Michael Moore
  • Vice-Chair (Canada), Incoming Chair: Sean Brillant
  • Vice-Chair (US): Mark Baumgartner
  • Board Members: Steve Katona, Amy Knowlton, Lynne Morissette, Geoff Shester, Colin Sproul, Tim Werner

Each position carries a 2-yr term. The Chair will alternate between Canadian and US representatives and will be filled by the Vice-Chair position. Since the initial Chair is from the US, the Canadian Vice-Chair will assume that position, followed by the US Vice-Chair. Board positions will be filled as needed at the Annual Meeting.

Code of Conduct
The Ropeless Consortium is dedicated to providing a positive and productive conference experience for all attendees. To that end, we expect meeting attendees to abide by our Code of Conduct

Videotaping, audiotaping, and photography of and during the Ropeless Consortium Annual Meeting are prohibited.


The Ropeless Consortium meeting is closed to members of the media. While we respect and appreciate the importance of media on right whale issues, many of the presentations are of works in progress that are being shared in confidence among colleagues. It would be detrimental to the study, the researchers, and the whales if the results of work in progress appeared in the media prior to their publication in a scientific journal. The meeting represents a forum for free exchange of information and ideas between fishermen and associations, scientists and conservationists from academia, governments and NGOs. If there were media present, this open discussion would not be possible for some participants. We are willing to provide contact information of experts in the field to the media for direct contact outside the context of this meeting. We appreciate your understanding.