Mauritius: A one-day workshop focusing on the theme “Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities in the Mauritius Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture”, kickstarted this morning at the Caudan Arts Centre in Port-Louis.
The Minister of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation, Mr Darsanand Balgobin, the Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Sudheer Maudhoo, and other personalities were present during the launching ceremony.
The workshop was organised by the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council (MRIC) and the Surrey Space Center in collaboration with the Surrey Space Center, University of Surrey, in the context of the project ‘NEREUS – A Space-based Maritime Surveillance System for Fisheries Monitoring and Anomaly Detection’ being undertaken jointly with the support of the United Nations Development Programme’s Ocean Innovation Challenge.
Also, on occasion, a Contract Agreement was signed between the MRIC and the Surrey Space Center.
In his address, Minister Maudhoo indicated that IUU fishing accounts for 10 – 30% of the global fish catch, which amounts to an estimated USD 10 – 23 billion loss annually. He dwelt on the economic and social consequences of this illicit activity, including corruption, putting responsible fishers at a disadvantage, weakening coastal communities, threatening food security, and promoting tax evasion and loss of income.
Besides, these fishing practices are depleting our marine environment by damaging protected areas, unnecessary fish stock depletion, deteriorating the marine ecosystem and thus undermining our efforts to conserve and manage fish stock, highlighted the Minister.
The Blue Economy Minister deplored that IUU fishers gain an undue advantage by acting as free riders to the detriment of responsible fishermen who implement all management and conservation methods.
Mr Maudhoo affirmed that his Ministry welcomes this collaborative project which, through Satellite tracking and surveillance of our EEZ, will provide a new avenue to contribute to national efforts to combat IUU fishing.
The Minister observed that monitoring the country’s vast EEZ is a challenging task and lauded the MRIC for tapping into the potential of satellites to address national issues such as IUU fishing. This collaborative project is being undertaken at an opportune time, that is, when Government is resolved to develop the blue economy sector to make it a strong economic pillar, he stated.
On that score, Minister Sudheer Maudhoo underpinned the potential contribution of the NEREUS project to chart a new way to combat IUU fishing by developing a detection tool which will enhance the Ministry’s resources to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing through a combination of measures and real-time satellite surveillance in our EEZ.
As for Minister Balgobin, he rejoiced that it is a matter of pride for Mauritius, that has integrated the circle of emerging Spacefaring nations only two years ago, to undertake the NEREUS project. This project, he emphasised, will propel Mauritius to the forefront of Research and Development in the Space field.
The Minister remarked that the project is yet another new avenue that the MRIC is exploring in its quest to develop the Space field as a future socio-economic pillar for the Republic of Mauritius.
While recalling that the first Mauritian Satellite opportunity opened the first chapter of Mauritius’s quest to look at outer Space as a new tool to help Research and Development and Innovation in the country, the Minister expressed conviction that the NEREUS project opens the second chapter for the country to engage concretely into Research and Development in Space and exploiting satellite Data for advising Policy.
With this project, we aspire to get a glimpse of how Space sourced data, space/satellite technology development coupled with AI and Machine learning, could be transformed into a strong tool to consolidate our maritime surveillance system already in place, stressed Minister Balgobin.
Furthermore, the Minister reiterated the Government’s firm belief in Space Technology as a potent socio-economic pillar for the Republic of Mauritius in the coming decades. He reaffirmed his Ministry’s support for such bold initiatives, which will contribute towards the development of a new socio-economic pillar driven by Space.
The NEREUS project, aspiring to be a potent tool to contribute to tackling IUU fishing, will use remote sensing imagery and data such as Synthetic Aperture Radar and Automatic Identification System, sourced from a wide network of collaborators and in-kind contributing partners, including the Ministry of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping. These data will be processed using machine learning approaches to derive a near-real-time footprint of fishing vessels adopting ‘abnormal’ behaviour in the EEZ of the Republic of Mauritius.