Drones against illegal fishing

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.


Illegal fishing represents a major global problem. When you realize that the losses caused by this activity are worth US$23 billion per year, that one out of three bluefin tunas are caught illegally and that around 20% of all fish hauled around the world are caught illegally, you are beginning to grasp the scale of this issue. Proportions of the environmental impact, on the other hand, are even more dire, for the fact that even the legal fishing industry that complies with the maritime wildlife protection standards has the capacity to damage this fragile ecosystem. Illegal fishing can completely destroy it.

Efforts are being made on the global scale to tackle this problem, but the challenge persists because patrolling large stretches of coastline takes time and requires substantial number of people, boats and aircraft. Now, almost whenever a manned aircraft is required to perform a task, there is a potential to use unmanned aircraft, and at an increased rate, a UAV has been proved a viable substitution. It seems that there is a pattern emerging 🙂

Back to the topic, one of the countries hardest hit by illegal fishing is Belize, a small coastal country in Central America. It was so rampant, that in the March this year, the European Union suspended all seafood imports from Belize (as well as from Cambodia and Guinea, for the same reason).

Help comes from the ConservationDrones.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing knowledge, building and using UAV for conservation-related applications with conservation workers and researchers worldwide, especially those in developing countries. The Belize Fisheries Department officials are being trained to use drones to monitor fishing areas, following the test phase that started in July 2013.

Fixed wing drones that are being used can fly for over an hour, have a range of 50km and are capable of capturing high-definition photos and videos. They will be used to patrol difficult to reach areas, such as coastal mangrove forests, at a fraction of the cost of a conventional, manned aircraft. Once the illegal activity is located, authorities can dispatch a vessel and perform a seagoing search, much more efficiently.

It will be interesting to see effects of this new tactics used against “pirate” fishers, and how soon will Belize start to reap the benefits of it (e.g. lifting of EU seafood import ban).

Last but not the least, drones provided by ConservationDrones.org should provide a much-needed, low-cost solution for the protection of one of the world’s most famous coral reefs, Glover’s Reef.

For further reading, check interesting articles on Gizmag, National Geographic and New York Times.

Video courtesy of ConservationDrones.org

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