Marine Reserve Monitoring
To discuss our Marine Reserve Monitoring expertise, please contact us.
Marine Reserves are protected areas that are fully and permanently protected from all activities that remove fish, animals or plants or that alter habitats – except as required for scientific monitoring.
OceanMind’s team of specialist experts are working with international governments to help protect their Marine Reserves against illegal fishing, and other prohibited activities.
Using satellite data, fishing vessel databases and other oceanographic data, OceanMind can track, monitor and analyse vessel behaviour to identify unusual activity that may put the Marine Reserves at risk. Satellite observations can be used to spot so-called “dark vessels”, who attempt to avoid detection. This actionable insight can be used to detect potential, illegal activity and understand all sea vessel behaviour throughout the Exclusive Economic Zone for monitoring and environmental purposes and enable enforcement on illegal incursions to the relevant responsible regulatory, enforcement or government body.
Case Study: Pitcairn Islands
The Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory which now makes up one of the world’s largest protected marine reserves. However, enforcement of the rules involving the reserve is expensive and difficult to manage. Previously, the traditional methods of monitoring and enforcement using patrol vessels and aircraft had proved to be both expensive and ineffective and the UK government were looking for a better system to monitor and enforce the boundary.
The Pew Charitable Trusts1 has funded the continued monitoring of the Pitcairn Islands marine reserve in the central Pacific, which constitutes the entire Pitcairn Island Exclusive Economic Zone, since January 2015. OceanMind, with its advanced monitoring and data analysis technology to interpret vessel behaviour, was chosen to conduct a pilot surveillance project in the Pitcairn Islands to determine if technology assisted analysis and remote sensing capabilities could provide insights into what is happening in remote areas of UK sovereign waters in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the British government.
Taking satellite and monitoring data from AIS, SAR and Electro-Optical (EO) satellites, OceanMind cross referenced this against external information such as fishing licence and vessel registry databases, regional fisheries management organisations and vessel tracking telemetry, to identify and distinguish between the various vessels located within the marine reserve, the EEZ and high seas.
OceanMind’s specialist team of analysts carefully scrutinised the behaviour of all fishing vessels within the area of interest over the monitoring period to verify its identity and establish compliance and seasonal trends. Fishing vessel tracks clearly showed that activity is lowest in April then noticeably increases from June, with a peak season of October to January. Throughout the monitoring period, OceanMind provided regular fisheries compliance analysis of all traffic on AIS as well as correlating that traffic with SAR imagery to look for ‘dark’ or non-transmitting vessels that may have been operating illegally in the area.
By collecting observations of the area outside the exclusive economic zone as well as significant observations made inside, it was possible to determine the likely percentage of ‘dark’ vessels operating nearby that may have posed a greater risk.
OceanMind’s findings were reported to all parties every two weeks, with urgent issues forwarded as they were identified. In the main, the behaviour of all the vessels identified by OceanMind within or near the Pitcairn Islands EEZ indicated compliance with UK regulations and international agreements for the surrounding high seas zone.
There were numerous indicators that the majority of fishing vessels in this area are well aware of Pitcairn Island’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the marine reserve and its restrictions.
During this period of monitoring, OceanMind coordinated with a Liquid Robotics Waveglider2 to patrol the northern border of the EEZ and respond to any suspected ‘dark’ targets. Patrol plans based on proximate vessel activities and uncorrelated SAR detections identified by OceanMind were provided in addition to the monitoring and analysis scheduled as part of this project. No unauthorized vessels were detected as part of that patrol.
This project successfully demonstrated the ability of technology-aided analysis and remote sensing capabilities to provide insights into what is happening in remote areas of UK sovereign waters.
A high standard for surveillance of remote marine protected areas was set following this trial by OceanMind and this success helped strengthen the case to designate the area as an important and valuable marine reserve for the UK.