Halting Illegal Fishing in the Seychelles
By Siri Olsson (Feb 2019)
Expectations are rising as the FishGuard Initiative is launching its pilot project in the Seychelles. The launch involves testing out a new approach to reduce illegal fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Seychelles. Many coastal and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are experiencing an increasing level of illegal fishing, a problem currently having an impact on the fisheries resources and economy of the local communities on the Seychelles.
The FishGuard Initiative is a unique partnership between the Moroccan start-up company Atlan Space, GRID-Arendal and the Norwegian fisheries analysis organisation Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT). Detecting and documenting illegal operators is key to reducing fisheries crime, and FishGuard aims to demonstrate that analytical capacity-building in combination with drones equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) can be a powerful tool to detect illegal fishing. This will increase safety for law enforcement officers by reducing interaction with criminals, reduce corruption by remote control of illegal activities, and cut crime through deterrence.
Technicians from Atlan Space spent the last month in the Seychelles preparing the drone through calibration flights. The UAV is currently operational and the aerodynamics and autopilot tuning were successfully completed. Calibration flights will continue, and the next important step is to train the AI attached to the long-range drone to recognise authorised vessels, and detect suspicious ships. The AI will continue to learn while flying, incessantly improving its database and ability to detect illegal activities. An analyst from TMT was also in the Seychelles along with the technicians and local officers to support project implementation and technical capacity building.
This is the first step towards enabling local authorities to address illegal fishing sufficiently. An important aspect of the project is the extensive involvement and training of local actors such as the Seychelles Fishing Authority, the Seychelles Air Force and other agencies that have signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate collaboration and to ensure future sustainability.
The FishGuard Initiative was awarded National Geographic’s Marine Protection Prize for its innovative approach to detect illegal fishing using emerging technologies. The coming months will be crucial in terms of proving the feasibility of the project. Partners have commented that the possibility of drone surveillance already seems to have a deterrent effect on illegal fishing activities. There are plans to expand this project to Tanzania this year, and to other coastal and SIDS once the project has proved to be successful. The initial project results will materialise this spring, after which GRID-Arendal will communicate these to stakeholders waiting in anticipation.
Keep an eye out for updates on the pilot project in the coming months!
Article Source: https://news.grida.no/halting-illegal-fishing-in-the-seychelles