Using satellite technology to create “true shark sanctuaries”

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Using satellite technology to create “true shark sanctuaries”

October 19, 2018 - 02:36
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Researchers come up with proposals on using satellite tracking technology to monitor and enforce regulations in shark sanctuaries

Eight of the fifteen grey reef sharks the researchers tagged fell prey to illegal fishing activities within the Marshall Islands shark sanctuary

After eight of the 15 grey reef sharks they were tracking were killed within the Marshall Islands shark sanctuary, a team of researchers turned their attention to finding out how such things can be prevented in the future.

Their proposals, which were detailed in a paper published in the Conservation Letters journal, focused mainly on using satellite tracking technology.

Although designated as a shark sanctuary, the Marshall Islands shark sanctuary is not a no-take sanctuary, so fishing vessels do enter the waters to fish for other species. For small countries like the Marshall Islands which have limited resources, it is not easy to monitor and enforce protocols.

Hence, the researchers suggest using satellite tracking technology to track vessels in the sanctuary.

"The ability to ‘see’ all boats in all places in near real-time using satellite tracking technology would provide a means to monitor for compliance with multiple fisheries management goals—be they combatting illegal fishing, monitoring transshipments, identifying fishing activity in high by-catch areas and more,” said Darcy Bradley, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute.

Specifically, they outlined three measures:

- A marine monitoring program that tracks all vessel activity within the shark sanctuary. This can be done by requiring all vessels within the sanctuary to be monitored using satellite vessel tracking systems.

- Shark products are usually smuggled to other countries, so international collaboration with various countries and with different agencies and stakeholders is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of monitoring and enforcement efforts.

- Vessels previously identified as having engaged in the illegal fishing of protected species should be banned from shark sanctuaries. Satellite vessel monitoring can be done using International Maritime Organization (IMO) identification numbers, which are unique hull identifiers that cannot be altered.

“But for the shark sanctuary model to work, we need to think creatively about ways to closely monitor all fishing activities within sanctuary borders,” Bradley said. “Currently, we have the technology to make this happen, we just lack the buy-in.”

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