|Posted February 24, 2012 by Thomas Friesman|
Courtenay's Ron McDonough may have discovered a simple, non-lethal way to prevent seals from ripping hooked salmon off fishermen's lines before they have a chance to reel in their catch.
His contraption, called the Orca-Stra, works much the same as a duck call but rather than attract animals, it repels them. Using the sound of a pod of hunting killer whales, the Orca-Stra repels the bold seals found off the B.C. coast that often plague fisherman and steal their fish.
McDonough, who has been fishing for more than 60 years, noticed that the seals commonly found near fishing boats tend to beat a hasty retreat whenever orcas make an appearance. He decided to use the natural repellent of orca calls to scare off the animals.
"Usually a seal will leave, fearing it's on the menu," he said. "When orcas show up it's similar to an outlaw gang with a keg of beer showing up at a church picnic - everyone else leaves."
McDonough said that orcas, particularly transient pods, prey on seals, sea lions and other marine life. They hunt in groups and they communicate through sound before they close in on their prey. Those sounds, he said, scare the seals enough that they leave the area if they hear them.
"It's enough to give killer whales a complex, but they seem to do OK," he said.
The Ocra-Stra works both above and below water and it's small enough to carry in a tackle box or jacket pocket. It is shaped like a flashlight, with the speaker facing out of the "light" end. To use, McDonough said a fisherman need only point it at the seals, turn it on and wait for about 10-20 seconds.
McDonough has taken his device out on the open ocean to test "in the field" and so far, he and his friends have had good results.
As a bonus, McDonough said the Orca-Stra has the potential to prevent injury to seals that inadvertently ingest the fishhooks or snag themselves when they grab and eat the hooked salmon.
"There is less chance of a seal suffering from a fishhook in the throat or body, as is sometimes the case," he said.
McDonough added that the device is undergoing testing and getting set for production. He hopes to have it in sporting goods and fishing stores soon, and said a tentative agreement has been reached with a local store. If the plans work out the Orca-Stra is expected to sell for approximately $25.
In the interim, McDonough has some advice for all the fishing enthusiasts in the Comox Valley.
"When orcas really do pass by, just reel in your line and enjoy the best free show on the planet."
© Comox Valley Echo 2012