Pacific News Minute: Satellite Systems Track Pirate Fishing Boats

Oct 8, 2015

Credit Wikipedia Commons

At the Our Oceans Conference in Valparaiso, Chile this week - President Michelle Bachelet announced a huge new ocean sanctuary around Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island.  Last month, we reported on a slightly smaller marine reserve established by New Zealand.  Britain, Kiribati, Palau, the US and other countries also declare vast stretches of the Pacific off limits to illegal fishing.  But the problem is how to monitor such enormous areas.  In today's Pacific News Minute, Neal Conan reports on two new systems which may begin to change that.

It's estimated that pirates land one of every five fish brought to market.  In some places, that rate doubles. At the Conference in Valparaiso - Secretary of State John Kerry announced a program called Sea Scout, to identify hot spots where pirates are known to operate, to share information with local governments, and use technology to identify and track illegal activities.  One system is a NOAA satellite that uses VIIRS - that's the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite which can detect the lights many boats use to attract fish at night.  Sea Scout goes into operation in Indonesia, the Philippines and three other countries next year.

The new ocean sanctuary around Rapa Nui will be monitored by Eyes on the Seas, a project developed by the Pew Charitable Trust in partnership with a British company called Satellite Applications Catapult. It's technology integrates multiple sources of satellite imagery with a database on each ship's ownership and country of registry and the system can detect whether that ship is using its Automatic Identification system to transmit it's position and identity by radio....or not.  All the data goes to a virtual watch room where analysts can identify suspicious activity and send someone to investigate.  This system is already up.  Palau's President, Tommy Remengesau said it's already identified suspicious vessels in Palau's marine zone.