Monitoring and enforcement of marine reserves can be challenging in remote parts of the world, where many of the last near-pristine waters are found.
To help meet this challenge, The Pew Charitable Trusts has partnered with Satellite Applications Catapult, a U.K. government initiative created to help foster economic growth through the exploitation of space. Together, they have pioneered a system that enables government officials and other analysts to identify and monitor unlawful activities in global waters, particularly illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, sometimes referred to as pirate fishing. This cutting-edge technology merges satellite tracking and imagery data with other sources of information, such as fishing vessel databases and oceanographic data, to help monitor seas across the globe.
The partnership builds on work by the Catapult to develop a system that can synthesize and automate analysis of multiple data sources in near real time to identify vessels acting suspiciously. The system then can alert users so that they can investigate and take action. It is much more efficient than current processes and drastically reduces the human power required to detect and analyse suspicious activities.
Pew has made this work a priority to help answer the question of how governments can protect large-scale marine reserves. In response to growing needs, Pew has initiated a Virtual Watch Room—focused on marine reserves—that will be powered by the Catapult system.
The Virtual Watch Room for marine reserves is just one of the projects that Pew and the Catapult are working on to develop technological and policy approaches to stop illegal fishing in the world’s oceans.
As the system develops into the next phase, new data sources will be integrated to add emerging technologies and respond to evolving needs. Among the potential sources are additional satellite imagery, various types of optical imagery, imagery from unmanned aerial vehicles, crowd-sourced photographs and sightings, electronic signals such as radar on ships, and possibly radio broadcasts.