Ascension Island uses “Eyes on the Seas” to monitor new marine reserve

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The Satellite Applications Catapult, working with the Ascension Island’s marine management authorities, has recently completed an initiative to provide effective and enforceable measures for the South Atlantic Ocean island through our ‘Eyes on the Seas’ technology.

Project Eyes on the Seas is a joint initiative with The Pew Charitable Trusts that combines powerful analytical technology, satellite monitoring and imagery data, and expert fisheries analysts in order to deliver insights into the compliance of fishing vessels on the global scale.

The work preceded the recent announcement by British Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, that by 2019, Ascension Island would be a Marine Protected Area (MPA). In conjunction with scientific analysis, the island has strengthened its legislation framework around existing fishery and introduced stricter licensing and monitoring criteria.

To maximise the fisheries patrol vessel’s effectiveness, Project Eyes on the Seas provided ongoing monitoring to the Ascension Island authorities through a satellite surveillance project jointly funded by Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. This analysis also helped the Government understand the threat level of illegal fishing in their waters.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “Using our Eyes on the Seas solution, we’ve analysed radar imagery alongside Automatic Identification System and other fisheries data. This provided the Ascension Island Government with up-to-date intelligence which was used to direct the fisheries patrol vessel to areas at greater risk of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing or to investigate areas where ‘dark targets’ had been detected.

“Following the UK Government’s recent announcement, we hope there will be further opportunities to work with Ascension in monitoring its designated MPA.”

Dr Judith Brown, Director of Conservation & Fisheries, Ascension Island Government, added: “Protecting the unique biodiversity and the marine resources of Ascension is one of the Government’s core objectives and being situated in the middle of the Atlantic we need to utilise these new remote sensing technologies where viable to help us achieve this goal.”