OceanLabs Seychelles is doing its part to protect the environment by recycling sonar buoys attached to fish aggregating devices (FADS) and turning them into environmental monitoring buoys.
The Seychellois company, founded in April 2022 by Daniel Hugelmann and Brett Smith, includes two freelancers and is supported by local information technology developers called The Mavericks.
Hugelmann told SNA that the project started after Smith found discarded FAD buoys on the beach.
“We took it apart to see what could be done with it. After speaking with several of our clients we realised that FAD buoys pose a serious environmental problem. One just needs to visit the buoy graveyard on Ile du Port to realise this. We also realised their need and the potential of remote sensing buoys so we constructed a prototype to confirm the validity of our idea and would like to develop it into a proper product,” he explained.
Hugelmann said that the buoy’s very robust ABS plastic housing can usually be used.
“The buoy’s electronic components are then analysed to see if they still function. Components such as batteries and the GPS receiver can be extracted and integrated inside the buoy housing with our own control and sensor electronics,” he added.
|Integrating the prototype assembly. (OceanLabs Seychelles) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
He said that there is a need for remote environmental monitoring in Seychelles for environmental conservation including marine protected areas, coral reefs and coral nurseries, wetlands, and in the aquaculture sector.
“The buoys will be customised according to the client’s requirements. One will be able to mix and match sensors for seawater salinity, acidity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and wave motion, to mention a few,” said Hugelmann.
OceanLabs is working closely with local non-profit environmental conservation organisation and also getting the support of the Seychelles Parks and Gardens Authority (SPGA).
“They have expressed an interest in deploying our buoy, thus we are actively developing our remote sensing buoy, in parallel with client projects,” said Hugelmann.
Although FADs are a useful fishing tool they can also be seen as marine litter when it is abandoned, lost, or discarded.
|Smith and Hugelmann (from left) of the OceanLabs with freelance consultant Kara and Rocchi of The Mavericks. (OceanLabs Seychelles) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
In response to the environmental impact, Hugelmann said that they have designed their buoys to be tethered and not freely floating.
“We are planning to offer regular inspection and maintenance to maximise each device’s lifetime. If an issue arises then the nature, or lack of, the transmitted signal will inform the client,” he told SNA.
At present OceanLabs only has a first prototype and has applied for a Seychelles Conservation and Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) grant that will help them turn their remote sensing buoy into a fully-fledged environmental and aquaculture monitoring product.
“With the SeyCCAT grant, we would be able to finalise our remote sensing buoy and have it ready for deployment and the production of further units. We are also cooperating with the manufacturer of the most widely used buoys here, Marine Instruments. They are supporting us by providing us with defective buoys which we can recycle,” said Hugelmann.
OceanLabs anticipate that if all goes according to plan, it will have a fully tested and operational buoy in the second half of 2024.