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New Satellite Technology Project – to Tackle the Global Threat of Illegal Fishing

(25 June 2014) Every time you buy seafood at a restaurant, store, or waterfront dock there is a 1-in-5 chance that the fish was caught outside the law.

Illegal and unreported fishing worldwide accounts for up to 26 million metric tons of fish annually, worth up to $23.5 billion. That equates to more than 1,800 pounds of wild-caught fish stolen from our seas every second.

To help end this major global threat to the viability of our oceans, the UK-based Satellite Applications Catapult is today announcing its partnership with the non-governmental organisation Pew Charitable Trusts and satellite data services company exactEarth Europe to capture and analyse satellite shipping data, and combine it with more vessel information to detect, track and prosecute illegal fishers.

At the core of this effort will be a powerful, nimble programme that will routinely gather information from satellite sources and merge it with data from coastguards and local fishermen around the world to pinpoint the location of suspect vessels. This will enable coastguard officers, port officials, and fisheries managers and law enforcers to access current, accurate intelligence on vessel location and routes, allocated catch, licences, history of fishing activity and more.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said, “This ground breaking partnership will support the Global Ocean Commission (GOC) Mission Ocean initiative, launched today, to save and restore ocean health. This new partnership will give the people charged with protecting the world’s fisheries a front-row view of what is actually happening on the water. Currently, illegal fishers can always find a place to hide on the vast oceans. Our work will shine a spotlight on those criminals and their activities, and help bring them to justice.”

Tony Long, director of Pew’s Ending Illegal Fishing Project, said, “Combining satellite technology with maritime expertise to combat illegal fishing makes sense economically, environmentally and socially. Criminal fishing operations use a wide range of ruses to steal fish from the commons, victimising everyone who relies on the oceans for food and a livelihood. This project closes the net around illegal fishing.”

The project to fight illegal fishing emerged from one of the Catapult spark workshops, which invite experts from diverse fields to develop innovative, effective solutions to major problems using satellite-derived data.