Illegal fishing ships could soon have nowhere to hide thanks to a satellite-based solution for maritime surveillance being developed by the University of Surrey and the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council (MRIC).

The Surrey Space Centre has been awarded funding by the Ocean Innovation Challenge, run by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to design, develop and validate a nearly real-time monitoring tool able to detect illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) activities in the Mauritius Exclusive Economic Zone.

Dr Raffaella Guida, Principal Investigator of the project from the University of Surrey, said: “The University of Surrey’s unique history and expertise in satellite data processing gives us a real opportunity to make a difference in the fishing industry – an industry which is the lifeblood of the Mauritian people.

Restoration of delicate marine ecosystem

“Most importantly, our project will accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14. By improving Mauritius’ surveillance capabilities, we will immediately support the restoration of their extremely delicate marine ecosystem.

“We aim to use our prototype to promote sustainable fishing, protect the economy of a small island developing state and, with future scale-ups, target the restoration of fish stocks and ocean health across the globe.”

Globally, 20 per cent of the US$144 billion fishing market is lost to illegal activities, with Mauritius heavily reliant on the fishing industry to support its annual 1.5 per cent GDP growth.

The project, selected among more than 300 proposals, has undergone a scrupulous technical and operational review, including social and environmental safeguards screening covering human rights, gender equality, environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation.
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