Uncrewed marine vessels known as “Bluebottles” have taken to the waters of Two Rocks and Jurien Marine Parks to stop illegal finishing in Australian Marine Parks.
Minister Plibersek has announced that Parks Australia is testing the efficacy of two uncrewed surface vessels during a 30-day trial through January and February to capture 24/7 real-time imagery of activity in the two marine parks off the Western Australian coast.
The trial will test technology to see if can be used into the future to monitor and prevent illegal fishing.
The 22ft solar, wind and wave-powered Bluebottles were developed by Australian company Ocius and launched from the Ocean Reef Boat Harbour in Western Australia. The vessels, which look similar to a small yacht, are equipped with 360-degree day/night infrared cameras, radar and satellite communications. They can autonomously monitor designated areas for months at a time.
The innovative Bluebottle technology will allow Parks Australia to monitor marine vessel activity across these two important marine parks that have previously been difficult and costly to patrol.
These new surveillance measures help to protect the plants and animal species in the marine parks including Western Rock Lobsters.
The annual migration of the Western rock lobster from the coast to deeper waters is known as the ‘whites run’ and attracts thousands of licensed cray fishers who target this prized species. To make sure the species survives, some areas in Marine Parks are designated “no take zones”.
Stopping illegal fishing protects the species and protects legal fishers who do the right thing, and who rely on lobsters for their livelihood.
The Bluebottle boats aren’t the first use of new technology to monitor Western Australia’s marine parks.
During last year’s Western Rock Lobster migration event, two underwater recorders called sound traps were installed at Two Rocks Marine Park to provide information on vessel activity in the park.
Drones with high resolution cameras are also being tested in no fishing zones of Australian Marine Parks to monitor marine vessel activity from the air.
Australian Marine Parks are special places and monitoring compliance breaches is essential to protect and conserve our rich marine life and biodiversity in these areas.
At Two Rocks Marine Park in the last financial year there have been 15 illegal recreational fishing incidents detected. The Government issued penalty infringement notices of $687 per incident as well as issuing official warnings.