Canada’s new Dark Vessel Detection program is utilizing cutting-edge satellite technology to find illegal fishing vessels that attempt to hide in plain sight stealing fish from waters around the world.

“Dark” vessels switch off their place transmitters to avoid detection so they can engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, called IUU.

IUU fishing is a major contributor to the decline of fish stocks and marine habitat destruction, which undermine the livelihoods of fish harvesters.

Now, the authorities ’s Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in partnership with the Department of National Defense and MDA (Canada’s largest space technology manufacturer which owns RADARSAT-2), has launched a new program that has already led to significant fines on five overseas vessels.

The $7 million Dark Vessel Detection program utilizes satellite technology to locate and track vessels whose place transmitting devices are switched off, sometimes in an effort to evade monitoring, surveillance and control.

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada established the pilot program this year to track dark vessels and is working with the Canadian Space Agency and NGOs to discover dark vessels in the Bahamas and Costa Rica. Its law enforcement partners include the Forum Fisheries Agency, which represent 15 fishing island nations in the Pacific, and the Ecuadorian Maritime Authorityhome to the Galapagos Islands a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The program provides state-of-the-art satellite information and analysis from MDA to small island nations and coastal states around the globe where IUU fishing has a big effect on local economies and the health of fish stocks.

Identifying “dark” vessels from space will now allow these small island nations to focus their investigations and optimize their enforcement effort to protect their fish stocks.

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“Illegal fishing threatens the health of our fish stocks and takes away resources from hard-working, law-abiding fishers, said Bernadette Jordan, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “We’re investing in one of the leading, most innovative systems in the world to make sure our fish stocks are protected, our fisheries remain profitable, and the law is upheld at sea. ”

This state-of-the-art system will help Ecuador and small island countries in the Pacific region to respond to illegal fishing affecting the Galapagos Islands as well as the food and economic security of its people, added Marc Garneau, Canadas Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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It’s estimated that IUU fishing accounts for around 30 percent of all fishing activity globally, representing around 26 million tons of fish caught annually at a cost to the global market of more than $23 billion a year. Illegal fishing happens both on the high seas and within the 200-mile limits of coastal states, which has a particularly negative effect on coastal rural populations in vulnerable places.

(Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

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