A Vietnamese fishing vessel and its crew of 15 men suspected of illegally fishing near Saumarez reef in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve was apprehended earlier this year.
A Vietnamese fishing vessel and its crew of 15 men suspected of illegally fishing near Saumarez reef in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve was apprehended earlier this year. Australian Border Force

New tool to stop illegal fishing off coast

THE CSIRO has developed a new tool that could help stop illegal foreign fishing off the Gladstone coast.

The tool is a web-based alert system.

Senior research scientist Chris Wilcox, part of the core team of six working on the system, said it was part of a larger project aiming to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by making better use of existing data sets and identifying new low-cost sources of information.

Statistical algorithms applied to data from anti- collision devices detected by satellites can identify if a vessel has turned off its tracking system or is moving in an unusual way, such as slowing in an area where it shouldn't be fishing.

"It doesn't say they are doing something illegal, but it says they are doing something abnormal. We're trying to provide better intelligence to the fisheries managers and port officials so that when vessels come into port, it helps them pick which vessels they should go and inspect," Dr Wilcox said.

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The Australian Fisheries Management Authority is yet to use it, but is talking with CSIRO about what it could provide.

An AFMA spokeswoman said the authority was always looking at new innovations that had the potential to assist in combating illegal fishing and looked forward to working with the CSIRO to evaluate how the system could be applied in Australia.

Although numbers have dropped dramatically since 2006-07, last financial year eight boats were caught off the east coast and 15 in Australia.

This is compared to 367 in 2005-06.

Many people have been brought into Gladstone this year after being caught kilometres out at sea.

Much of the illegal fishing centres on sea cucumbers, a delicacy in parts of South-East Asia.

The spokeswoman said the drop was largely due to strategies adopted by Australian authorities, which include comprehensive monitoring and surveillance activities in Australian waters.



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