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Enlisting feathered friends to figh… – Information Centre – Research & Innovation

Unlawful fishing destroys maritime habitats and threatens species residing at sea. An EU-funded venture is...

Unlawful fishing destroys maritime habitats and threatens species residing at sea. An EU-funded venture is helping authorities to crack down on these operations by developing the world’s first seabird ocean-surveillance process.


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© Weimerskirch, 2016

The world’s oceans deal with much more than 350 million sq. kilometres of the earth’s surface area. In their most distant parts lurk an mysterious quantity of ‘dark vessels’ – fishing boats that have turned off their transponders so that they can have out illegal fishing undetected.

This apply is a main threat to the maritime atmosphere. Unlawful fisheries deplete fish stocks, significantly affecting local economies and maritime habitats. Unregulated boats normally use illegal extended-line fishing methods which endanger dolphins, seabirds and other animals that grow to be entangled in the lines.

Authorities have struggled to suppress illegal fishing since it is tough to detect boats operating with no authorization. To meet this problem, researchers in the EU’s OCEAN SENTINEL venture, funded by the European Study Council, have formulated the world’s first ocean-surveillance process by enlisting the support of an not likely ally: the albatross.

When albatrosses look for for food, they embark on foraging excursions that can previous up to fifteen days and deal with hundreds of miles. By efficiently developing a info-logger smaller sufficient to be attached to the birds, the venture staff was ready to transform these journeys into illegal fishing patrols. Whilst the albatrosses foraged for food, their ten-cm extended info-loggers at the same time scanned the ocean, making use of radar detection to detect boats and transmit their place again to analysts in real-time.

‘A process making use of animals as surveillance at sea has never been made prior to but we have been ready to use the birds to track down and immediately advise authorities about the place of vessels, and to distinguish involving lawful and illegal fishing boats,’ says principal investigator Henri Weimerskirch of the French Nationwide Centre for Scientific Study.

‘We have been proud we could perform with the albatross since they are the household of birds most threatened by illegal fishing,’ he provides. The curious birds can grow to be caught in illegal lines when they swoop down to look into the fishing boats and their baits.

Surveillance for statistics

Throughout the venture, Weimerskirch and his colleagues visited albatross breeding grounds on French island territories in the Southern Indian Ocean. Below, they attached info-loggers to 169 albatrosses to track the birds as they flew out to sea to come across food.

As the albatross foraged, they recorded radar blips from 353 vessels. However, only 253 of the boats have been broadcasting their identity, placement and speed to the appropriate authority, main the staff to conclude that the remaining 100 ships (37 %) have been a blend of illegal and unreported vessels.

‘This is the first time the extent of illegal and unreported fisheries has been approximated by an impartial technique,’ says Weimerskirch. ‘This information is critical for the management of maritime means and the technology we formulated is previously being made use of by the authorities to strengthen management in these extensive, tough to take care of regions.’

An military of animals

The project’s good results has encouraged other countries, like New Zealand and South Ga – a United kingdom territory – to use OCEAN SENTINEL info-loggers to place illegal fishing in their own waters. South Africa and Hawaii are also looking at deploying the technology in the close to foreseeable future.

Scientists are also doing work to adapt the info-logger so that it can be attached to other animals, this kind of as sea turtles, which are also less than threat from illegal extended-line fishing.

As animals are turned into undercover surveillance systems created to place illegal boats, they are equipping people with the awareness they have to have to beat this difficulty correctly. ‘I hope our technology, together with other efforts, spells the beginning of the conclude for these illegal vessels,’ concludes Weimerskirch.