Tackling Illegal Fishing Through Innovative Technology

Innovation is more than just a buzzword at Gatehouse Maritime; it is a commitment. Unlike some companies that might limit innovation to a poster on the wall, we actively cultivate innovative thinking among our developers to pursue tomorrow’s solutions today. Each month, we dedicate an entire day to exploring new algorithms and methods, merging our passion for coding with our drive to solve the real-world challenges our customers face.

During these innovation sprints, one of our sharp developers, Jonas Koldkjær, decided to tackle the pressing and truly relevant issue of “illegal fishing.” While working on our AIS-driven platform, he recognized a significant challenge for maritime authorities: the overwhelming number of vessels to monitor. This sheer volume can be discouraging when trying to pinpoint which fishing vessels may be actively fishing in prohibited zones. Often, vessels hover near the borders of a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and may drift into off-limits areas to fish—legally, these vessels may be permitted to sail in the area but not to fish.

In this case Denmark’s EEZ is used and marked with green. The vessels of interest are clearly seen at the very border of the zone.

Illegal fishing or just sailing by?

Understanding the intricacies of these movements, Jonas saw a clear goal for his project. He aimed to develop a method to distinguish between vessels merely sailing and those actively fishing. His solution: refine the existing platform to significantly reduce the number of vessels of interest displayed on the map. This innovation would allow authorities to focus on vessels with a higher likelihood of illegal activity, making it easier to spot those fishing in restricted zones. Perhaps more importantly, it would mean not having to disturb as many fishing vessels with unnecessary controls.

This feature not only makes the haystack smaller but also sharpens the focus on the needles — the vessels most likely engaged in illicit activities.

Keep in mind that we are talking real-time data here. By using this specific feature, maritime authorities would be able to conduct investigations into whether a vessel is conducting illegal fishing as it happens. The authorities would essentially be able to catch the culprits in the act.

A holistic approach to tech innovation:

  • The problem: Maritime authorities are tasked with enforcing sovereignty and are responsible for pursuing vessels that conduct illegal fishing in a nation’s waters. With thousands of active vessels in and around the EEZ, it’s a significant challenge to identify which vessels are both in a prohibited area AND actively fishing.
  • The method: This feature employs a neural network that processes vast amounts of data, utilizing machine learning to discern patterns typical of fishing activities, such as changes in speed and course.
  • The outcome of the experiment: A data layer that can be set up for Gatehouse Maritime customers identifying vessels of interest, that will be in a specific area and conducting illegal fishing.
  • Ways to improve further: We are currently working on enhancing our Ship Info Database with much more information about each vessel. In the context of illegal fishing, we plan on adding legal information showing if a vessel has previously been sanctioned or been convicted of illegal fishing in the past. This information could potentially be added to the “illegal fishing” algorithm to further narrow the search for suspicious behavior.
  • Who could use the “illegal fishing” feature? Maritime authorities worldwide are interested in protecting their national waters and upheld national fishing regulations. This tool will give them a chance to not only conduct reports showing past indiscretions, but to actually zoom in on likely illegal activity as it is unfolding.
While the yellow marked data points indicate normal sailing, the blue data points predicts fishing patterns or behaviour.

The true power of innovation

I’m proud to have brilliant minds in my team. Developers, who thrive on innovation, understand the playing field of our customers and thrive by giving them better tools. Product improvement suggestions like these are essential for a technology-based company such as Gatehouse Maritime as our success is measured in how we help our customers solve their challenges.

Written by

Claus Siggaard Andersen
VP Maritime Technology
Connect with Claus on LinkedIn

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