Product Intro

Providing a path to continued Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) use

Ace Aquatec has developed award winning predator control technology that keeps fish safe without harming marine mammals.

Based on more than 20 years of research, our deterrents combine acoustic and electric systems with thermal camera triggers to provide long-term effectiveness and high animal welfare standards. Ace Aquatec won the 2018 Queen’s Award for Innovation for success in reducing conflict between seals and farms. Our US3 and RT1 acoustic deterrents were recognised for providing a step forward in both welfare and efficacy compared to traditional acoustic devices.

Legislation in the US (the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and an ongoing review by Marine Scotland of regulations governing predator deterrents have prompted fish farmers to take a closer look at their environmental impact.

Crucially, Ace Aquatec anti-predator solutions address concerns about injury and disturbance to seals and sea lions as well as non-target species, such as dolphins and porpoises, and therefore comply with domestic and international measures to protect the marine environment.

 

Legislation in the US (the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)) and an ongoing review by Marine Scotland of regulations governing predator deterrents have prompted fish farmers to take a closer look at their environmental impact.

Crucially, Ace Aquatec anti-predator solutions address concerns about injury and disturbance to seals and sea lions as well as non-target species, such as dolphins and porpoises, and therefore comply with domestic and international measures to protect the marine environment.

Behaviour versus barrier

Ace Aquatec has pioneered new generation ASR (acoustic startle response) deterrents that work by changing behaviour rather than by building a barrier, like the old style ADDs.

Predators are first conditioned to avoid low volume noise, and then a conditioning signal across a wide range of frequencies provokes a startle response. Seals respond rather like cows touching an electric fence or being startled by unexpected noise.

Older ADDs that erect a temporary acoustic wall around a pen, similar to a constant burglar alarm, are vulnerable if there are holes in the ‘fence’. But because Ace Aquatec deterrents create a behaviour, not a barrier, breaks in the acoustic signal don’t lead to a window for predation.

 

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Science behind the signal

The three key elements of the Ace conditioning signal are the low duty cycle (on/off periods); the low average volume (less output); and the low frequency (pitch).

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Low duty cycle

The duty cycle is important because it affects temporary or permanent deafness (threshold shifts) in seals or non-target species. Our sound approach means we can run with a reduced duty cycle because we can create conditioned avoidance due to the quality, not the quantity, of the sound. Acoustic barrier systems require long duty cycles to be effective (like a fence they must have no holes).

This is a critical factor for NOAA (which regulates the US Marine Mammal Protection Act) and EPS (European Protected Species) licensing because low duty avoids injury to the hearing of co-existing wildlife around farms.

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Low average volume

Ace’s signal involves far less acoustic output into the water than barrier systems. Just 10 milliseconds from the onset of the sound to its highest peak creates a visceral response in mammals that cannot be overcome.

Successive encounters with this noise create sensitisation (gets worse) rather than habituation (gets used to it) which means that sound is more impactful at lower volumes on successive encounters.

Our system keeps being effective because we randomise the frequency of the pulses, the volume of pulses and the duration of silences.

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Low frequency

Ace Aquatec’s targeted frequencies ADDs are tailored to the sensitive hearing range of mammals; our randomised computer-generated sound patterns in the mid-frequency system are designed specifically to avoid the hearing risks and habituation effects associated with single frequency systems; and our low frequency system avoids the hearing ranges of non-target species.

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Product

ACE ASR US3

Mid-frequency (8-11kHz) acoustic deterrent that offers proven long-term effectiveness; wide frequency spread that avoids threshold shift and habituation; and automatic duty cycle ramp down, which ensures the deterrents don’t stay on permanently after the initial automated activation (see AI Trigger below).
This removes the need for manual intervention by the farm staff.

Product

ACE ASR RT1

Low frequency (0.8-2kHz) acoustic deterrent that can protect multiple cages with just one device; is safe for use in areas with cetaceans such as porpoises and dolphins; and has automatic duty cycle ramp down.

 

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Product

ACE AI Trigger

We use a thermal imaging camera combined with artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically trigger our deterrents when a seal or sea lion is approaching, meaning the system only activates when needed.

Our software also includes an automatic ramp down period after every activation and an intelligent awareness of other systems in operation to reduce duty cycle or total average transmission volume. The benefit of this thermal camera triggered automation is a significant reduction in the amount of sound being produced by each farm site, without exposing fish to a higher risk of predator attacks.

Product

ACE ESR E-Fish

Our electrified dummy fish in a mort sock uses a physical startle stimulus to trigger a flight reflex. Combined with Ace Aquatec’s acoustic devices, it creates conditioned avoidance and sensitisation events and offers added protection at the most challenging sites. It can also be used on sites with acoustic restrictions.

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    Product

    ACE Intelligent Portal

    An advanced monitoring and activation platform for controlling deterrents remotely, the portal can adjust the performance of deterrents, receive automated alerts if a system goes offline, and easily mute systems for divers.

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    Compliance

    NOAA and MMPA

    The MMPA (Marine Mammal Protection Act) will ban fish product imports from countries whose farming operations cause mortality and serious injury of marine mammals. NOAA Fisheries, which is responsible for the MMPA, defines ‘serious injury’ as ‘an injury that is more likely than not to lead to the death of the affected marine mammal’.

    Both the Ace US3 and RT1 acoustic deterrents have been certified through NOAA’s easy-to-use website deterrent tool, allowing all users of our equipment to continue exporting to the US under the MMPA when its new import provisions come into force on January 1, 2022.

    Compliance

    Global Aquaculture Alliance

    The GAA’s BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) certification programme insists that farms must do all they reasonably can to not harm wildlife. The new draft of the Salmon Farm BAP standard stipulates that any acoustic harassment devices used are approved by regulators through a review of environmental impacts, with specific reference to endangered, protected, threatened or cetacean species in the area.

    The farm may only use acoustic harassment devices to control predators if independent expert opinion verifies that their use will not harm endangered, protected or threatened species or any cetaceans, and if they are legally approved and/or permitted for use.

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    Compliance

    Marine Scotland and EPS

    Since March 2021, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) announced that the sector is no longer using ADDs that may have been considered to cause disturbance to European Protected Species.

    Only new generation acoustic deterrents that use a different range of frequencies and volumes to help deter seals, while better safeguarding cetaceans, and comply with both Marine Scotland and US MMPA requirements, will be allowed.

    Operators have to provide evidence from suppliers of their devices’ compliance.

    Sound profiles must be mapped to see the impact in terms of ‘injury’ and ‘disturbance’. Marine Scotland methods for calculating injury are well established but, currently, there is not an accepted sound threshold level for behavioural disturbance to marine mammals.

    Ace Aquatec has zero injury using Marine Scotland’s deterrent tool, and the lowest disturbance of any acoustic system, which can be lowered further to zero.

    We work with leading acoustic scientists like Alex Coram (Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) and Jeff lines Silsoe Research Institute who compiled an automatic generator and mapping tool (based on Marine Scotland’s own parameters) to make EPS application as straightforward as NOAA’s online MMPA certification system.

    Ace is requesting that frequency weighting be accounted for in the Marine Scotland model (currently it is not incorporated). But even without frequency input in this model, Ace’s US3 and RT1s cause no injury and the lowest disturbance of any systems, providing a path to continued acoustic use.

    Compliance

    ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council)

    We are applying for a variance request through Faroese salmon farmer Bakkafrost (which is 100% ASC certified) to allow our deterrents on all ASC sites.

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    History of innovation

    Ace Aquatec’s R&D journey, from acoustic startle innovation to AI triggers, has progressed over more than two decades and resulted in award winning, technological breakthroughs.

    Inventor and company co-founder John Ace-Hopkins, together with Gavin Haywood, made a presentation on the Management of Seal Predation at the 1995 Scottish Aquaculture Conference, outlining their philosophy on the difference between the acoustic startle methodology of the Thomson Marconi, versus the Airmar barrier approach.

    Then, from 2001 to 2004, Ace Aquatec developed a means of improving the startle response by using a fish motion detector trigger to elicit a 3-4khz training tone, before a louder startle noise.

    With the subsequent development of the ASR US3 and ASR RT1, came academic validation that Ace’s acoustic signal was 50% more effective than alternative deterrents on the same farms (K. F. Whyte 2015, Investigating Seal Depredation at Scottish Salmon Farms), and the range was greater (Goetz 2008).

    Ace focused on thermal imaging after tests on captive seals showed that short periods of targeted sound were more effective and less likely to result in habituation than operating deterrents continuously (Kastelein 2006).

    And Ace developed the electric fish following tests on how electric fields prevented seals from taking a freely available food source (Sarf071: Behavioural Responses of Seals to Pulsed, Low Voltage Electric Fields in Sea Water; D Thomson et al).

    Further research

    Ace Aquatec has SAIC (Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre) funding to further validate the fact that porpoises cannot hear the RT1 deterrent.

    We have developed our systems with Scottish government backing and with the support of leading salmon farmers, including Scottish Sea Farms, the Scottish Salmon Company and Loch Duart, as well as with retailer Marks & Spencer.

     

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    Future proof

    The recent advances in acoustic technology embraced by Ace Aquatec enable farms to take a blended approach to predator control. The most successful safeguards against predation will be a combination of new generation acoustics, reinforced anti-predator netting, and good farming practices. Taken together, such measures will ensure that farms, fish and other marine mammals all thrive within the new regulatory framework.

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    History of innovation

    Ace Aquatec’s R&D journey, from acoustic startle innovation to AI triggers, has progressed over more than two decades and resulted in award winning, technological breakthroughs.

    Inventor and company co-founder John Ace-Hopkins, together with Gavin Haywood, made a presentation on the Management of Seal Predation at the 1995 Scottish Aquaculture Conference, outlining their philosophy on the difference between the acoustic startle methodology of the Thomson Marconi, versus the Airmar barrier approach.

    Then, from 2001 to 2004, Ace Aquatec developed a means of improving the startle response by using a fish motion detector trigger to elicit a 3-4khz training tone, before a louder startle noise.

    With the subsequent development of the ASR US3 and ASR RT1, came academic validation that Ace’s acoustic signal was 50% more effective than alternative deterrents on the same farms (K. F. Whyte 2015, Investigating Seal Depredation at Scottish Salmon Farms), and the range was greater (Goetz 2008).

    Ace focused on thermal imaging after tests on captive seals showed that short periods of targeted sound were more effective and less likely to result in habituation than operating deterrents continuously (Kastelein 2006).

    And Ace developed the electric fish following tests on how electric fields prevented seals from taking a freely available food source (Sarf071: Behavioural Responses of Seals to Pulsed, Low Voltage Electric Fields in Sea Water; D Thomson et al).

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    Case Study

    Supporting MMPA compliance

    The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prompted many farms to take a closer look at what measures they’re taking to reduce impact on their local marine environment.

    We supported customers who need MMPA compliant sites by developing thermal triggers, synchronised systems, and automatic ramp down routines to reduce acoustic output.

    Challenge

    Get in touch for advice on a predator control solution

    Case Study

    Supporting MMPA compliance

    The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prompted many farms to take a closer look at what measures they’re taking to reduce impact on their local marine environment.

    We supported customers who need MMPA compliant sites by developing thermal triggers, synchronised systems, and automatic ramp down routines to reduce acoustic output

    Get in touch for advice on a predator control solution