Omar Sørvik came up with the idea while he was working on longliners fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean, where sperm and killer whales stealing fish from the lines as they are hauled is a serious problem for fishing vessels. Up to three-quarters of the catch can be plucked from the lines between leaving the seabed and reaching the surface in some fishing areas. He patented the idea, but with his own work commitments, was unable to develop the idea further.
Then his daughters Ingunn Elise and Linn Solveig, who had been aware of the thinking behind what has become the Sago Extreme, picked the idea up and decided to develop it further. The result has been a new venture, Sago Solutions, established in 2016 as a research project with support from Innovation Norway and which now employs the sisters on a full-time basis.
Each brings a particular set of skills to the company; Linn Solveig with extensive experience in shipbuilding as a trained industrial planner and technical engineer, while Ingunn Elise has a background in marketing and administration.
The Sago Extreme is an aluminium structure that is shot away as part of the longline system, and as the line is hauled, it passed through the Sago Extreme. In the process, the fish are stripped off and held in the structure on the way to the surface, where the aluminium pod is then craned on board with the fish inside. This keeps them secure from the hungry whales through the depths at which the cetaceans like to treat the line like a buffet.
Toothfish do not form part of the whales’ natural diet as they depths they live at do not coincide, and stealing this extra food from the line provides the whales with extra food without the need to hunt actively, while for the fishing vessels a longer time is needed to catch their quotas.
'Longer sea time results in more emissions, and it is necessary to extract larger quantities of fish in order to achieve the original quota,’ commented Linn Solveig Sørvik.
The number of Sago Extreme pods needed for fishing depends o the length of the line used, as each unit glides across the seabed as the line is hauled, until it reaches a stopper, and is then brought to the surface. By-catch and undersized fish escape through custom openings in the structure and the Sago Extreme can be dimensioned to different fisheries.
‘The problem is known in the industry, and different approaches have been tried in the past, but whales are intelligent animals and it has not been possible to find a permanent solution. It is important for practically oriented fishermen that the solution actually works during fishing, and Sago Extreme does,’ they explain.
The Sago Extreme has been tested in Norwegian waters where whale predation on longlines is a problem in the Greenland halibut fishery off the Vesterålen in Northern Norway. Although it was a challenge to recreate the same conditions in Norway, while also locating suitable camera equipment capable of recording what happens below the surface at fishing depths.
'The challenge is that deepwater line fishing in the Southern Ocean takes place in rough conditions and at 1200-2000 metre depths, which makes testing and documentation difficult. There are very few good video shots from these depths. Through the test phases of Sago Extreme here in Norway, we have used different camera systems. In the end, we found a solution that gave us good recordings, but it limited the testing to take place at only a few hundred metres’ depth,’ Linn Solveig explained.
‘It has proven to work properly. It was a great relief to us the first time we got some good video footage from test runs - the Sago Extreme slipped along the seabed well. The fish was brought in and preserved as desired. In the autumn, it is ready for full-scale testing in the Southern Ocean.’