Protecting our fish stocks through satellite surveillance

Protecting Our Fish Stocks Through Satellite Surveillance


Solving illegal fishing with the use of advanced digital technologies

Oceans around the world are facing increasing pressure from climate change and human activities. Global fisheries provide livelihoods for almost 12 per cent of the world’s population, and now these precious stocks are under increasing threat from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The threat to fish stocks is real and it’s growing. About 30 per cent of all fish stocks globally are overfished and about 60 per cent are fully fished. Illegal fishing costs the ocean economy more than $23 billion a year, endangers the sustainability of marine wildlife and the fishing industry, and negatively impacts local people who rely daily on fish for food and their livelihood.

Illegal fishing is typically done by international ‘dark vessels’, which don’t broadcast their location or appear in public monitoring systems.

Led by MDA , a global leader in satellite technology, the Protecting our Oceans project uses satellites, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and virtual reality to identify these vessels, blacklist them and ultimately prosecute the owners to protect our global fisheries and marine ecosystems.

“The collaboration with our Supercluster partners is bringing new thinking and ideas into how to solve illegal fishing with the use of advanced technologies such as behavioural analytics and immersive visualization,” says Keith Beckett, Chief Product Engineer at MDA.

“The Supercluster has played a critical role in helping our consortium develop a clear vision and purpose, as well as assemble a team of diverse organizations faster than if we did so on our own,” adds Hans Wehn, R&D Director at MDA.

The consortium’s efforts are already paying off with Canada being recognized as a leader in combatting illegal fishing and protecting marine ecosystems. In February 2021, the Government of Canada awarded MDA a three-year, $7-million contract to use made-in-Canada RADARSAT-2 and RADARSAT Constellation Mission satellite technologies to keep watch over millions of square kilometers of ocean and detect vessels engaging in illegal fishing around the world. The Protecting Our Oceans project is developing leading technologies to support MDA’s Dark Vessel Detection program which has recently been deployed to protect the ecologically fragile Galapagos Islands, in partnership with the Government of Canada. MDA will also support the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, which represents 17 Pacific Island member states to protect the environment and better manage wild stocks. This work has already led to significant fines to five foreign vessels that threaten a sustainable fishing industry.

“Tragically, the vast majority of IUU fishing takes place in the waters of developing nations around the world, where subsistence fishing is critical to the local community, food security and economic development. These nations have little defence against the sheer number of fishing vessels operating at will wherever there are fish left to harvest,” Keith Beckett notes. “Our technology and innovations are enabling these nations to stand up for themselves, and to protect their environment and enabling sustainable fisheries.” 

Technology developed through the Protecting our Oceans project is projected to further enhance MDA’s maritime platform, enabling customers to better protect the environment, food supply chains, maritime jobs, and to help deliver information to increase border security and tackle human rights violations.


Learn more about the Protecting Our Oceans Project

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