CSIRO tackles illegal fishing

IUU vessels The tool uses data collected by satellites to identify, monitor and rank vessels across the globe for IUU activity. Image courtesy of iuu-vessels.org

Australia-headquartered Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is developing a notification system that alerts authorities when vessels suspected of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing arrive in port.

The web-based tool, believed to be the first of its kind, uses data collected by satellites to identify, monitor and rank vessels across the globe, based on a list of behaviours associated with IUU fishing.

Dr Chris Wilcox, senior scientist and co-designer of the platform, said: "Almost all vessels are equipped with anti-collision devices that can be detected by satellites. Using data from these systems, we can shine a spotlight on vessels acting suspiciously based on factors including the vessel's history, movement and whether its transmitter has been intentionally disabled.

"Countries will be able to sign-up to receive notifications, or directly access the portal to search for vessels and then be provided with a report which highlights the suspicious behaviours involved."

Officially launching in October, the development of the tool follows the execution of the first international treaty aimed at eradicating IUU fishing, coordinated by the United National Food and Agriculture Organisation and agreed to by 29 countries.

"As well as costing tens of billions of dollars each year, IUU fishing leads to overfishing and depletion of stocks which has the greatest impact on developing countries whose people rely on fish as their primary source of protein and income," Dr Wilcox stated. "As global population numbers continue to grow, combatting IUU fishing is becoming even more important to ensure future food security for the world."

CSIRO has been working with the Indonesian government to address the problem in a project that is part of a collaboration with Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen and his US-based company Vulcan.

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