Fighting illegal fishing from outer space

BR-EL-satellite-map-trackingSatellite map tracking vessels around Cape Verde © WWF & Navama

In order to fight illegal fishing and protect marine and oceanic fish stocks, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has developed a satellite-based system to monitor illegal fishing, in particular off the West African coast. The monitoring system is based on the Automatic Identification Service (AIS), an automated information exchange system between vessels designed to prevent collisions, which was launched by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2000. The AIS provides real-time information via satellite concerning vessels, including their identity, current position, followed course and speed. But this is not the way WWF intends to use this system. A first analysis of the data collected by AIS during the last 11 months shows that 111 commercial vessels operating off the West African coast have delivered almost all their catches in EU countries. "There's nothing illegal about such activities," clarifies Alfred Schumm, manager of the WWF Smart Fishing Initiative. "But with these data we'll be able to check if vessels exporting to the EU are respecting fishing quotas."

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