Protecting Our Oceans

Protecting our wild fisheries through digital surveillance of our precious oceans.

Project Overview

The Problem

Humanity has long relied on the world’s five oceans to sustain life as well as support marine transportation, tourism, fishing and energy generation.

Together, these oceans generate goods and services worth $2.5 trillion every year, enough to make them the seventh largest economy on the planet.

However, the fisheries and aquaculture sectors that provide food across the globe and livelihoods for almost 12 per cent of the world’s population are under threat from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This activity costs the ocean economy more than $23 billion a year and endangers the sustainability of marine wildlife and the fishing industry.

Illegal fishing is typically done by ‘dark vessels’, which do not broadcast their location or appear in public monitoring systems. The threat to fish stocks is real and it is growing. Currently about 30 per cent of all fish stocks are overfished, and about 60 per cent are fully fished. Unreported and undetected ocean traffic also pose human rights, human trafficking and maritime border security issues.

Protection of our oceans relies on self-reporting by vessels – where they are from, what they are catching and whether they have the right to fish in their location. Dark vessels avoid detection to commit their crimes and are aided by a lack of a comprehensive detection system to locate them.

How We Are Solving It

This project applies satellite monitoring, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and data visualization techniques such as virtual reality to recognize these vessels, blacklist them, and ultimately prosecute the owners to protect our global fisheries and marine ecosystems.

The Result

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 also led to significant fines for five foreign vessels that threatened a sustainable fishing industry.

Project Lead

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Project Partners

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  • sfu@2x e1632697382895

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