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Marine Current Meter Helps Fishing Industry, Oceanographers

Lobsters (Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

A University of Rhode Island (URI) oceanographer in Narrangansett has developed an inexpensive meter for measuring currents near the bottom of bays, rivers and other shallow waters that is helping lobster and oyster producers, as well as other oceanographers, do their work.

Vitalii Sheremet, associate marine research scientist at URI, used his expertise about currents, tides and waves, to develop the SeaHorse tilt current meter. The device is a buoyant plastic pipe containing an accelerometer and an electronics package, anchored vertically to the sea floor, designed to tilt at an angle, with stronger currents creating a greater tilt.

Sheremet’s meter costs about $500, compared to about $15,000 for other commercially available current meters. He makes each SeaHorse by hand; it takes him about a week to build and calibrate 10 of them. Sheremet hopes to have the meters commercially available sometime next year, as soon as he perfects the final design.

URI says the lower cost and simple design have made the SeaHorse a popular item in the fishing industry and among other oceanographers. Aquaculture farmers in Rhode Island looking to identify the best site for farming oysters use the meter. Some 50 meters are being deployed in the Gulf of Maine to monitor the currents around lobster traps. In a joint project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sheremet is studying how the orientation of lobster traps relative to the direction of the current and tides affects how many lobsters are caught.

At Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Cape Cod, 35 current meters have been deployed since last fall to understand tidal flows and water circulation in the bay. Sheremet says the meters have been used in the Red Sea, the Black Sea, off the coast of Taiwan, and in the waters around New England and Hawaii.

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