Satellite data could target illegal fishing

  • Environment minister Cole Simons

    Environment minister Cole Simons


Data from satellites is being analysed to help ascertain whether Bermuda’s 200 exclusive economic zone is at risk from illegal fishing.

The analysis of the historical data is from vessels’ signal devices associated with Automatic Identification System along with other important identifiers will be carried out by the British-based company Satellite Applications Catapult.

Up to three years of data is available as well as other proprietary algorithms and important information.

Most large fishing vessels and their support craft are required by regional fishery management organisations to have AIS fitted on their vessels.

On some occasions fishing boats will turn off their AIS tracking systems, often when they are engaged in illegal activity. Catapult will analyse and report these movements together with such movements through our EEZ of hazardous cargoes and anything else that could be identified as a danger to our EEZ.

The study adds fishery data to conventional satellite tracking and has become the “go-to” for governments wishing to identify illegal, unreported and unauthorised fishing vessels remotely.

Minister of the Environment Cole Simons said: “Bermuda is small but has a proud 400-year record of conserving its biological resources, both marine and terrestrial.

“Our land area is small but Bermuda is responsible for a vast marine estate that has been protected hitherto by our laws and our relative isolation from the commercial fishing fleets of the world. Now there are signs that we may not be immune to the scourge of the illegal fishing that affects the world’s oceans.

“In a world where some 90 per cent of fish stocks are either fully or over-exploited, it is our responsibility to establish to what extent our fish stocks are under threat from outside fishing fleets. It is time to assess the risk we face to our marine resources, and to review the protection of fish stocks. We want to conserve Bermuda’s resources for Bermuda’s own sustainable use.

“Luckily the technology that has put the oceans of the world under even more pressure can also be used to our advantage. It is now possible to analyse satellite tracks in ways that will show fishing patterns, refuelling patterns and journeys that mysteriously continue with AIS and other identifiers switched off.”

“Catapult will carry out its analysis in November and December of this year and is due to deliver a full report in the New Year.

Mr Simons continued: “Once we have identified those months where we have significant risk, we can hopefully switch to the more expensive live tracking and, with the assistance of a local aeroplane service, have a way of documenting such illegal activity and levy fines in accordance with existing legislation.”

Mr Simons expressed his gratitude towards Aurum Fund Management Limited, a Bermudian-based investment manager, chaired by Dudley Cottingham, for funding the study.

“We at Aurum have a passion for saving the world’s marine environments and have a long history of supporting environmental conservation projects since our founding in Bermuda in 1994,” Mr Cottingham said.

“With this valuable assistance, Bermuda will be better informed about what goes on in our waters and this will give us the tools to work out how to protect these waters to the highest standards in the future.”

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Published Oct 2, 2016 at 6:18 pm (Updated Oct 5, 2016 at 6:36 pm)

Satellite data could target illegal fishing

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