Satellite Data To Discover Illegal Fishing In EEZ

October 2, 2016

An analysis of data from satellites is being carried out to discover whether our 200 mile radius exclusive economic zone [EEZ] is at risk from illegal fishing, the Government said today.

The Ministry of the Environment said, “The analysis of historical data from vessels’ signal devices associated with Automatic Identification System [AIS] along with other important identifiers will be carried out by the Oxford, UK based company Satellite Applications Catapult.

“They will be studying up to three years of data and using other proprietary algorithms along with other important information overlays.

“Most large fishing vessels and their support craft [bunker, factory ships, etc.] are required by regional fishery management organizations [usually the country of vessels’ flag registration] to have AIS fitted on their vessels.

“However, some fishing vessels are known to turn off their AIS tracking systems when close to a country’s EEZ, either because they wish not to be interrupted from taking innocent right of passage throughan EEZ, or because they are fishing illegally.

“It is these movements that Catapult will analyse and report on together with such movements through our EEZ of hazardous cargoes and anything else that could be identified as a danger to our EEZ. This Catapult study adds layers of fishery data to conventional satellite tracking and has become the go-to for governments that want to identify illegal, unreported and unauthorized fishing vessels remotely.

Minister of the Environment Cole Simons said, “Bermuda is small but has a proud 400-year record of conserving its biological resources, both marine and terrestrial.

“Our land area is small but Bermuda is responsible for a vast marine estate that has been protected hitherto by our laws and our relative isolation from the commercial fishing fleets of the world. Now there are signs that we may not be immune to the scourge of the illegal fishing that affects the world’s oceans.

“In a world where some 90 percent of fish stocks are either fully or over-exploited, it is our responsibility to establish to what extent our fish stocks are under threat from outside fishing fleets. It is time to assess the risk we face to our marine resources, and to review the protection of fish stocks. We want to conserve Bermuda’s resources for Bermuda’s own sustainable use.

“Luckily the technology that has put the oceans of the world under even more pressure can also be used to our advantage. It is now possible to analyse satellite tracks in ways that will show fishing patterns, re-fuelling patterns and journeys that mysteriously continue with AIS and other identifiers switched off.

“Catapult will carry out this analysis in November and December of this year and will deliver a full report in the New Year. Once we have identified those months where we have significant risk, we can hopefully switch to the more expensive live tracking and, with the assistance of a local airplane service, have a way of documenting such illegal activity and levy fines in accordance with existing legislation.

“We are indebted to Aurum Fund Management Limited—a Bermuda based investment manager, chaired by Dudley Cottingham, for funding this important study on behalf of the people of Bermuda.”

“We at Aurum have a passion for saving the world’s marine environments and have a long history of supporting environmental conservation projects since our founding in Bermuda in 1994,” said Dudley Cottingham.

“With this valuable assistance, Bermuda will be better informed about what goes on in our waters and this will give us the tools to work out how to protect these waters to the highest standards in the future.”

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Comments (15)

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  1. Terry says:

    How much this …..
    Never mind. Don’t even have to read the article or related.

    The Japanese and Koreans and Americans are just outside your viewing area.

    What a joke.

  2. Real Deal says:

    Bermuda radio needs a bigger radar or relay stations.
    we could build our selves surveillance web. I have some plans I did up for one but its on the back burner.

    2016 people the tech is out there. if they want to fish in our waters we needs to get payed.

  3. Thoughtful says:

    While we are on the subject of illegal fishing. Can government hire people to work for fisheries to keep an eye on illegal fishing around our shores, rocks and docks. This is becoming very alarming! We have loads of foreigners that are killing and depleting our shores of fish, the fish that keep our shorelines clean. They have no conscience when fishing and take just about anything out of the water no matter what size! I am getting tired of trying to tell them that what they are doing is plain wrong. They are buying cast nets and whatever they catch goes in their buckets and in their frying pans. I’m not trying to stop them from eating but its getting out of hand. They see a little handful of fry(minnow) and they are casting it…that causes a major problem as the fry is on the bottom of the food chain and is needed to sustain the numbers and growth of the larger species. I have told and explained to my friends the harm that it does and to explain to others. I am also pleading with Bermudians that if you see that happening to explain the damage that it will cause long term and to report it to fisheries. This has to stop or Bermuda will look like some of these other countries with marine life just about non-existing!

    • reddamtibi says:

      This is so true – how any one could dislike this is beyond me – mind you, there are a handful of Bermudians acting in similar ways.

      • Thoughtful says:

        We all know who are disliking my comment but let me reassure you, don’t let me catch you with undersized fish and other protected shellfish because I will be calling fisheries….no questions asked. Lets see how you enjoy paying your fine. You have overfished and destroyed your countries marine life, I wont allow you to come here and destroy mine!!!

    • Widget says:


      As a parent of adult children that has taken my children fishing since they were very little I can say for a fact your assumption of fry is mind boggling to say the least. My children with many many others have been casting nets for fry for years and years and I still see no signed of depletion. I do not know where you gathered your information and I can assure you it has no bases on factual information. Further more I have taught my children conservation and the importance of conserving the populations of fish and to notify fisheries if they see anyone catching certain fish that are prohibited. Now your story regarding the fry does not hold water with me, get your facts straiit next time.

  4. joe says:

    Ummm, you do realize that Google and partners are doing this globally for free?

    You can see current data online now at Just create a free account. From what I can see, the only AIS-detected fishing activity in Bermuda’s EEZ is from a sport boat named Anita Jean from the US this summer.

  5. James says:

    And when they find people fishing in this 800,000 square mile area who is going to deal with it? We cannot even police inshore waters never mind 800,000 square miles of open ocean!

    • Spit Bouy says:


      From what I understand if a vessel is deemed and proven to be fishing illegally in our waters the company which owns it would be notified. Obviously photographic evidence would be a big plus. The vessel could then be impounded once they put into (any) port.

      This is better than what’s happening now which is nothing, we know that vessels are have been fishing here illegally forever and it’s long overdue that we put a stop to it. Heck I’d prefer we sank the so and so’s.

      Drones would clearly be a good way to help enforce the protection zone.

  6. reddamtibi says:

    How do we take a hard line stance on the matter when we have no means to physically enforce the EEZ boundaries?

    What are we going to send the Japanese government a fine vis mail?

    What I am asking is how does this action finally, physically, translate to keeping these vessels out of our EEZ?

  7. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    If you go fishing in Florida to put food on the table for your family off one of their many bridges and you get caught with more than one line in the water , the fine for doing so is a little over $100.

    Not wearing eye protection while riding a motor cycle in Florida can get you a similar fine,however it’s ok! to ride a motor cycle over there with out a helmet,the politician who got the helmet law passed is no longer with us.

    You can cheat death and become a vegetable for the rest of your life by wearing a helmet.

    The fine for not properly securing your helmet here is $50.

    Did you know that Governments are loosing money processing crime.

  8. Kathy says:

    On behalf of the people of Bermuda, than you to Dudley Cottingham and Aurum Fund Management Limited. I am sure a study of this magnitude does not come cheap!

    From what I gather from reading the article, the only thing we can do is fine people if they are fishing illegally in our waters? Can’t people be arrested for fishing? If we are only fining, in essence, aren’t we selling our fish illegally for more Government income?

  9. Donte Hunt says:

    Drones are the most cost effective method to enforce the prohibition of illegal fishing in our EEZ. In fact, Drones are already and increasingly being used against illegal fishing – this is simply the way of the future. A fixed wing long endurance drone (flight time of over 8 hours +) providing real time / live streaming video would fly / loiter in suspected fishing areas and once a vessel is located, a partner (like the US Coast Guard) would intercept.

    National Geographic –

    • Albie says:

      With an area of approximately 13,000 square miles to patrol I suspect that you would need a huge number or drones together with a massive support structure and budget just to service them.

      All that On the off chance that you might just find a fishing vessel fishing in our waters.

      Then of course you would need to verify that claim and then arrest the ship.

      How would that happen?

      I have never seen the police boat Guardian outside the Great Sound let alone 200 miles off shore.

      I’m certain that the pilot boats are far too busy to be of assistance.

  10. Boogah man says:

    This is finally being addressed…lovely.
    Very important.
    Longline is an issue too.