Canada takes fight against illegal fishing to outer space

From: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Ottawa, ON – Today we mark the International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.

Globally, IUU fishing is a major contributor to declining fish stocks and marine habitat destruction. It is estimated that IUU fishing accounts for about 30 per cent of all fishing activity worldwide, representing up to 26 million tonnes of fish caught annually at a cost to the global economy of more than $23 billion a year.

Illegal fishing occurs both on the high seas and within the 200 mile limits of coastal states, which has an especially negative impact on coastal rural populations in vulnerable areas.

That is why Canada has been working with our international partners, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and governments around the world to help combat IUU fishing. This year, we’ve aimed our sights even higher: outer space.

With support from the Canadian Space Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is using Canadian RADARSAT satellite imagery to help small island nations and developing coastal states in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, South America and Western Africa to identify and track “dark” vessels. These vessels represent a significant threat to global fish stocks and marine habitat, as the vessels operate without monitoring equipment-in the form of a GPS tracker-and do not wish to be tracked. Vessels without monitoring equipment pose a challenge for authorities to ensure compliance with fisheries regulations. Canada’s support allows recipient states to scan vast areas of ocean for potential threats, allowing limited patrol resources to be focused efficiently.

NGO partners-including OceanMind, The Nature Conservancy and WildAid Marine-provide additional support by conducting vessel data analysis, allowing recipient states to respond. This analytical support helps these governments track and identify “dark” vessels on satellite imagery, and better understand potential threats to their marine ecosystems.

Recently, Canada has partnered in The Bahamas with the Marine Action Partnership, providing additional support to the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) in their efforts against IUU fishing. We have also partnered with the Costa Rican government and OceanMind on work which has already led to significant fines to five foreign vessels.

This year has also been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with effects that continue to ripple around the world. As we navigate through this period of uncertainty, Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to maintain all essential operations, and has increased efforts with its international partners to fight illegal fishing. The safety and security of our staff is paramount, and we are finding new ways maintain and improve our operations so we can continue honouring our international commitments.


Now more than ever in these uncertain times, we are being forced to find new and innovative ways to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing on the high seas. With this important work, done in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency, NGOs and the small island states who depend on the seas for their food security, we are putting those who engage in the reckless plundering of our oceans on notice: we see you, even when you don’t want to be seen.

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

The RBDF has been receiving satellite support since March 2020 and it has been providing tremendous support with maritime domain awareness. This support has allowed for decision making in the efficient management of assets in areas known for foreign fishing vessels engaging in IUU Fishing. Additionally, the RADARSAT support has assisted in the prosecution of a search and rescue case involving two missing Bahamian fishermen, by identifying vessels in the area.

Commodore Raymond King, Commander Defence Force, RBDF

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