Partnering to promote sustainable fisheries and aquafarms

04 May 2022
Rodrigo da Costa, EUSPA Executive Director, Susan Steele, Executive Director of EFCA
Rodrigo da Costa, EUSPA Executive Director, Susan Steele, Executive Director of EFCA

A new Memorandum of Understanding aims to better leverage Galileo and Copernicus to further the goals of the Common Fisheries Policy and the EU’s Green Deal.

Today, the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), the EU agency responsible for coordinating national operational activities in fisheries and assisting Member States in applying the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The cooperation agreement reflects the two agencies shared commitment to creating sustainable fisheries and aquaculture – both of which are key components to the European Union’s Green Deal.

“Through the MoU, EUSPA will help EFCA better leverage the EU Space Programme, particularly Galileo, the European Global Satellite Navigation System (EGNSS) and Copernicus, the European Earth Observation programme. This agreement allows EFCA to gain new tools for enforcing the Common Fisheries Policy and EUSPA will also be able to benefit from EFCA’s expertise, allowing us to better meet the needs of the fisheries control community,” says EUSPA Executive Director Rodrigo da Costa.

Cracking down on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Both Copernicus and Galileo are already being used to assess the location of fish stocks and to track the location of vessels in an effort to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, an important aspect of the CFP. The key to doing so is to increase transparency and provide precise information to policy makers and regulators like the EFCA. To this end, Earth Observation services, including the Maritime Surveillance component of the Copernicus Security Service, along with GNSS-based solutions utilising Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), are important tools in the fight against IUU fishing – a practice that not only costs the global economy between EUR 9 and 21 billion annually, but also threatens our oceans’ fragile biodiversity.

Galileo and Copernicus will improve EFCA capacity to detect, identify and categorise suspected non-compliant fishing activities and will result in safer, more sustainable and efficient maritime operations.

According to Dr Steele, EFCA is already using the EU Space Programme. Back in 2017, EFCA requested the support of Copernicus Maritime Surveillance (CMS) to monitor a vessel seen towing a cage of bluefin tuna – a strictly regulated species. By providing an optical image of a precise location, the agency was able to confirm that the targeted vessel was compliant with all relevant EU regulations.

Another good example of how Galileo and Copernicus are being used to curtail IUU fishing can be found in Norway, where the Norwegian Coastal Authority, in collaboration with Mercator Ocean, are combining GNSS and Earth Observation data with artificial intelligence to identify vessels with suspicious route patterns. The tool is contributing to a more efficient identification and monitoring of vessels that are possibly conducting illicit activities or are engaged in IUU fishing.

Supporting Europe’s growing aquaculture sector

Copernicus and Galileo are also being used to support Europe’s growing aquaculture sector. By providing information and data on environmental conditions (salinity, currents, temperature, etc.) and long-term weather forecasts, EO-based applications play a key role selecting ideal locations to establish aquafarms.

Once the aquafarm is up and running, much of the work is done by fully automated vessels that rely on the accurate positioning and navigation provided by Galileo.

Several projects set to benefit

To kick-off the MoU, EUSPA and EFCA have identified several EU-funded projects that could benefit from the agencies’ cooperation. These include Bluebox Porbeagle, which is developing a transceiver to report the position of vessels computed using Galileo and authenticated with Galileo Open Service Navigation Message Authentication, and GAMBAS, a project building a search and rescue beacon that can be remotely activated by rescue coordination centres. The MoU can be amended to expand the cooperation to include other projects and initiatives.

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Updated: Dec 08, 2022