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Developing new maritime domain awareness tools for the Pacific region

By December 3, 2020December 15th, 2020No Comments

With the generous support of 30,000€ through the French Embassy in New Zealand’s Pacific Fund, Xerra has recently completed a project to develop new technologies for maritime domain awareness that could have a significant impact in the Pacific region. 

The objectives of the work were two-fold — (1) apply machine learning algorithms to automate vessel detection based on weather-independent satellite imagery, thus providing near real-time detection of fishing activity across the area of interest, and (2) engage with French Polynesia and France to understand and deliver on the unique maritime needs of French territories in the Pacific, and develop an intuitive, collaborative platform for fisheries management.

The team at Xerra achieved this work through the collaborative development of our Starboard Maritime Intelligence platform with French partners UnseenLabs and Airbus and is now preparing for beta trials with users across the Pacific region. 

Starboard ingests vast volumes of data from multiple sources—including global vessel movements and multiple types of satellite data. These layers are ingested into a real-time geospatial platform and used to detect ‘dark’ vessels, which are not reporting their location. 

Employing algorithms and machine learning models Starboard highlights noteworthy vessel activity associated with illegal fishing practices, such as when two vessels meet at sea. 

In order to identify vessel operators not complying with conservation management measures, databases are ingested from regional fisheries management organisations such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

This work culminated in two ‘digital’ operations with the Ministry for Primary Industries international fisheries team, where the Xerra team analysed live vessel activity in the high seas, including an area known to be an enclave for illegal fishing activity adjacent to the exclusive economic zones of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Vanuatu. During these operations, we delivered daily analysis reports for southern bluefin tuna — a migratory species of great value to Pacific Island nations. 

As a result of these operations, we were able to quantify the fishing effort in the area, differentiate between vessels who were allowed to fish and those who weren’t, and ultimately detect a dark fleet of vessels with evidence to suggest they were illegally fishing for southern bluefin tuna.

We would like to thank the French Embassy in New Zealand for their support of the Starboard product development and our collaboration with French Collectivities in the Pacific. We look forward to continuing to work with French partners and nations in the Pacific to help build maritime domain awareness in the region.