Seychelles to monitor illegal fishing with unmanned drones

Monitoring of illegal fishing activities in the waters of Seychelles will soon be conducted by drones as the island nation embarks on a trial project.

The Seychelles Fishing Authority will be the coordinator of the project — called FishGuard — which will be integrated into the fisheries patrol routines of the Seychelles Air Force and the Seychelles Coast Guard.

“SFA is a leading partner in this project and eagerly looking forward to its implementation in view of the potential to significantly improve how the authority combats illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities, especially in the northern part of our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone),” said Ronny Renaud, the authority’s chief executive.

Surveillance of large marine areas will be done using a combination of the short and long-range drone equipped with artificial intelligence.

A drone is an unmanned aircraft that may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans by working in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS.

The project will be tested in October with the Seychelles Air Force designated as the operator. The Coast Guard will support the project by providing a vessel for at-sea deployment of the drones, and the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority will ensure that safety requirements are met and required flight authorizations are obtained.

FishGuard is the brainchild of Badr Idrissi and Younes Moumen, who co-founded ATLAN Space — a technology startup developing unmanned aerial vehicles with artificial intelligence. The drones are programmed to be self-reliant and capable of making independent decisions based on data collected.

The National Geographic awarded ATLAN Space with funding to partner its ‘FishGuard’ pilot programme.

In an article on Citizen Truth, Idrissi said, “If the drone is 95 percent sure that behaviour is illegal, it will send the relevant local authorities information detailing the time of the occurrence, the GPS coordinates, the location and any other relevant data that will help them decide on the course of action.”

Until most recently, patrolling large marine areas through the use of drones has been technologically restricting. This is mainly due to range limitation and high costs.

A communiqué from the Seychelles Fishing Authority states that “with this unprecedented combination of short-range drones, autonomous long-range UAVs, Earth observation data and fisheries intelligence analysis, it is expected that the pilot project in Seychelles will help the authorities to identify illegal fishing operations, trigger enforcement actions and crucially produce a deterrent effect on illegal activities.”

Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has a vast Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.37 million square kilometres, which presents a challenge when it comes to the monitoring of illegal fishing.

The project is expected to significantly decrease the impact of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing on the Seychelles’ marine resources and the people who depend on them.

Trygg Mat Tracking, a Norwegian non-profit analytical firm specialising in providing fisheries intelligence and analysis to countries to combat illegal fishing, will support the pilot programme. The firm will facilitate the transfer of information from the local fisheries authority and global databases and fed to the drone.

Another partner is GRID-Arendal which will be responsible for the provision of relevant Earth Observation data.