AIS and M2M Protect Against IUU Fishing by Small Vessels

fishing boat
file photo

Published Feb 26, 2018 10:18 PM by Asif Rehman

According to a recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing may account for over 15 percent of fish caught (not farmed) in the global fishery. In addition to causing economic damage, these actions can threaten local biodiversity and food security in many countries. Unfortunately, none of this come as a surprise to anyone involved in global fishery management.

But all is not doom and gloom. Many actors are taking actions to limit IUU fishing. The U.N.’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA) entered into force on June 5, 2016 and promises to be a key driver in the fight against IUU fishing. NGOs like The Nature Conservancy are partnering with fishermen and the fishing industry in collaborative projects that use science, technology and policy to ensure fishermen can have a sustainable business while protecting and restoring fish habitat. Others like Global Fishing Watch “advance sustainability through transparency” by using technology to reveal the location and behavior of commercial fishing fleets and making this information freely accessible. 

Tracking commercial fishing vessels is facilitated by technologies like Automatic Identification System (AIS). The IMO made it mandatory for a AIS Class A transceiver to be installed aboard all ships heavier than 300 gross tons engaged on international voyages and cargo ships of 500 gross tons and upwards not engaged on international voyages by the end of 2004. Local and regional laws subsequently determined which vessels had to have a device fitted and in which waters their use was applied. In 2009, The European Union imposed even stricter regulations requiring fishing vessels 15 meters (49 feet) or longer to carry AIS.

But tracking large ships and fleets only helps with part of the problem. It’s estimated that about 85 percent of the world’s motorized fishing vessels are less than 12 meters in length, and these small vessels dominate in all regions. AIS Class A transceivers can track these vessels but can be cost prohibitive and require permanent power which is not typically available in this size of vessel. AIS Class B products are well suited to tracking this class of vessels, however there are some challenges here as well.

AIS Class B typically transmits with less power and less frequently than Class A equipment. In areas where there are not many vessels, AIS ground stations and satellites can detect these transmissions and hence track these vessels. The challenge comes in areas with a high density of ships, for example in desirable coastal or near shore fishing areas where local authorities are particularly motivated to track fishing activity. When there is a high density of ships with corresponding high levels of AIS traffic, detection and reception of these transmissions becomes difficult, particularly when masked by higher power Class A transmissions. 

The best way to ensure reliable tracking of small vessels independent of ship density and AIS traffic levels is to add another tracking modality to the dual mode AIS Class B equipment. Adding satellite machine-to-maching (M2M) tracking to a dual mode (terrestrial and satellite) Class B AIS transceiver creates a tri-mode transceiver that solves the problem of AIS messages not being received. This is a robust solution based on tried and proven technology as opposed to gimmicks that purport to resolve problems posed by the physics of radio and satellite communication. 

A partnership between industry players ORBCOMM, Pole Star and Weatherdock has resulted in the creation of Hali, the first and only tri-mode small craft tracker that combines terrestrial AIS, satellite AIS and satellite M2M technology all into one affordable and reliable solution.
Hali was created for maritime authorities, enforcement agencies and small craft fleet owners and operators to deliver vessel location through terrestrial and satellite AIS transmissions, which are augmented with ORBCOMM satellite M2M messaging, ensuring complete vessel visibility to maximize environmental compliance, maritime safety and security. Tracking data can be integrated into existing regulatory and enforcement software or a standalone tracking application including geofences can be provided.

By deploying Hali in smaller fishing vessels, vessels that make up most of the global fishing fleet, maritime authorities and enforcement agencies have a reliable tool they can use to enforce fishing regulations and help put an end to IUU fishing.

Asif Rehman is Product Marketing Manager, ORBCOMM. ORBCOMM and Pole Star will be present at the fifth World Ocean Summit being held at Riviera Maya, Mexico, on March 7-9, 2018.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.