Every day, our oceans are under sustained, substantial and stealthy threat from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 1 in 5 fish caught around the world is illegal, unreported or otherwise unregulated.
While international, regional and national rules exist, difficulties with their application and implementation enable this harmful activity to continue, depriving our precious oceans of their rich and vital biodiversity and imperilling the future sustainability of our planet for our children and grandchildren.
At Sirius Insight, we understand and take very seriously the dangers that these activities pose to the UK’s own vibrant and diverse marine life. We are, accordingly, taking steps to ensure that our precious waters, our marine habitats and rich but fragile ecosystems, are properly protected and enabled to thrive.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities are responsible for the loss of 11–26 million tonnes of fish each year, which is estimated to have an adverse economic consequence equating to a staggering USD $10–23 billion per year. Much of this is lost by the world’s poorest nations. Conflating this economic fall-out, illegal fishing represents a catastrophe to the health and future vitality and biodiversity of our oceans.
In the past, activists have taken action to disrupt illegal fishing activities in the English Channel. In 2021, Greenpeace campaigners dropped boulders in a ring around the Offshore Brighton Marine Conservation Zone to deter bottom trawlers as fishing vessels’ heavy weighted nets would be destroyed by the rocks if they got snagged. In response, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched an investigation into the campaign group’s actions and noted crisply that “everyone needs to act within the law”.
Since Brexit, the fishing agreement between the UK and the EU provides for French fishing vessels to operate in Jersey and Guernsey territorial waters and in a permitted zone between six and twelve miles from the UK coast so long as they are able to provide evidence they had possessed a licence to fish in these waters, pre-Brexit. While larger fishing companies have been unaffected, smaller boats have struggled to gather sufficient evidence to permit them to fish in British waters. There have been multiple incidents between British and French fishermen as a result of this tension and as a consequence of the complexity of policing who may and may not fish in certain locations.
Sirius Insight recognises these challenges: it has the technology in place to ensure agreements are being upheld and laws are being followed. As we have explained in previous blogposts, many vessels are tracked through AIS transponders. As a consequence of their smaller size, however, many fishing vessels are not mandated to report their positions on AIS and, therefore, adherence to national fishing reporting requirements is not always fully guaranteed.
Our cost-effective, comprehensive, persistent surveillance provides an effective cordon of overlapping sensors, offering comprehensive and continuous coverage. Our Sirius Insight platform can geofence prohibited or restricted fishing grounds and raise alerts to the authorities about non-compliant vessels. To save our maritime authorities from being inundated by unactionable alerts, our algorithms autonomously recognise when a fishing vessel is in transit as opposed to conducting bona fide fishing activity, ensuring appropriate alerts to illegal actors and enabling persistent monitoring of fishing grounds.
Cost-savings arising from our technology are further increased by virtue of the multi-use nature of our monitoring infrastructure. The same sensors that can monitor and draw attention to illegal fishing can simultaneously alert the relevant authorities to vessels in peril, illegal maritime border crossings, and sanction compliance. Therefore, by installing our cutting-edge technology along the UK coastline, at Sirius Insight we are well placed to provide low-cost and effective solutions to many of the challenges that the UK authorities currently face in the English Channel, saving lives at sea, promoting security resilience and providing better value to taxpayers.
At Sirius Insight, we share a strong sense of the collective pride we all feel for the diversity and health of UK home waters, and we understand how vitally important this is to maintaining our long-term food and environmental security.
We feel privileged to be able to play our part. We stand ready to assist in installing our world-leading monitoring technology along progressively expanding expanses of the UK coastline. In everything we do, our work is driven by a strong sense of public purpose to help ensure safety and security at sea for all.