Canadian satellites to monitor illegal fishing

April 20, 2021.  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will be setting up a $7 million international satellite system to identify illegal fishing boats. This initiative is aimed to help developing countries understand and use satellites to track down illegal vessels, a.k.a. “dark vessels” — ships that have switched off their location transmitters to avoid being monitored and tracked by authorities.

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing has had major negative impact on fish stocks, ocean ecosystems and local economies.

“Illegal fishing threatens the health of our fish stocks and takes resources away from hard-working, law-abiding fishers. Through the Dark Vessel Detection program, we’re partnering with other ocean nations to better detect and prevent illegal fishing around the world. We’re investing in one of the leading, most innovative systems on the planet to ensure our fish stocks are protected, our fisheries remain lucrative, and the law is upheld at sea,” said Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

The Canadian Government will join forces with the Department of National Defence, Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science, Global Affairs Canada, and MDA to help the Forum Fisheries Agency (which represents 15 small island nations in the Pacific region), and the Ecuadorian Maritime Authority, National Directorate of Aquatic Spaces.

Illegal fishing costs the global economy approximately $23 billion each year and accounts for 30 percent of fishing worldwide. It’s not only a major threat to fish stocks but to ocean habitats as a whole.

A motivating factor for this initiative was the attack that was launched on the Galapagos Marine Reserve in 2020, when hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels surrounded the reserve with their tracking systems turned off to avoid detection. This project should further help Ecuador and other nations regulate and control overfishing in their waters. ~Emily Chavez