By Nick Wise, 8th June 2020
Healthy ocean ecosystems are essential for our healthy existence. Over 80% of life on Earth can be found in the oceans, and the oceans produce over half of the oxygen that we breathe. Yet the oceans are under threat. UNESCO estimates that 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems that underpin livelihoods have been degraded or are being used unsustainably, and many ocean species are threatened with extinction.
Currently only 7.5% of the ocean is protected in Marine Protected Areas that are designed to preserve biodiversity. The international community has agreed that establishing MPAs is essential for the preservation of biodiversity in the oceans, and targets have been established to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030.
The Blue Belt programme is a UK Government commitment to provide long term protection of over four million square kilometres of marine environment across the UK Overseas Territories, including the British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory, Pitcairn, St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha.
Since 2017, OceanMind has supported the Blue Belt programme by providing satellite surveillance and enforcement support to the UK Government. Using artificial intelligence to analyse vessel movements, OceanMind can detect illegal fishing in MPAs anywhere in the world. Satellite imagery can be used to detect so-called “dark vessels” that may be hiding their presence from authorities. By combining global vessel tracking data with satellite imagery and AI, OceanMind cost effectively delivers intelligence that can be used to direct patrol vessels to suspicious activity, inform in-port inspections, or any other enforcement action.
Modern technology means that there is nowhere for illegal fishing vessels to hide. Where in the past enforcement vessels were needed to protect an MPA, now all that is necessary is a laptop. Protecting 30% of the ocean and ensuring the health of our ocean ecosystems has never been more possible.