Canada launches international program to track illegal fishing using satellite technology

Internationally, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major contributor to the decline of fish stocks and marine habitat destruction. It also undermines the livelihoods of our legitimate fish harvesters.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has launched a new program in collaboration with the Department of National Defence, Defence Research and Development Canada's Centre for Security Science, Global Affairs Canada, and MDA to detect vessels engaging in IUU fishing, also known as "dark vessels".

The $7 million Dark Vessel Detection program uses satellite technology to locate and track vessels whose location transmitting devices have been switched off, sometimes in an attempt to evade monitoring, control and surveillance.

The program will provide state-of-the-art satellite data and analysis to small island nations and coastal states around the world where IUU fishing has a major impact on local economies, food security and the health of fish stocks. One major concern for our government is the impact IUU fishing has on food security, where fish resources of vulnerable coastal communities are threatened by the illegal fishing, affecting millions of people. Identifying "dark" vessels from above will now allow these small island nations to focus their investigations and maximize their enforcement effort to protect their fish stocks.

Program partners include the Forum Fisheries Agency (which represents 15 small island nations in the Pacific region), and the Ecuadorian Maritime Authority, National Directorate of Aquatic Spaces (which is in charge of surveillance and control in the Ecuadorian maritime domain). In December 2020, Canadian and Ecuadorian officials signed a memorandum of understanding to formalize their partnership, and enhance surveillance around the Galapagos Islands – a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Dark Vessel Detection program is part of the $11.6 million in funding for Canada's commitments to ocean health announced at the 2018 G7 ministerial meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Quotes "Illegal fishing threatens the health of our fish stocks and takes resources away from hard-working, law-abiding fishers. Through the Dark Vessel Detection program, we're partnering with other ocean nations to better detect and prevent illegal fishing around the world. We're investing in one of the leading, most innovative systems on the planet to ensure our fish stocks are protected, our fisheries remain lucrative, and the law is upheld at sea." The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

"The Dark Vessel Detection program was made possible by Canada's strong, collaborative partnership with international partners to address this important challenge. This state-of-the-art system will help Ecuador and small island nations in the Pacific region respond to illegal fishing impacting the Galapagos Islands and the food and economic security of its people. Canada is committed to innovative partnerships to create a sustainable future for all." The Honourable The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs

"The Department of National Defence is well positioned to contribute to these efforts to stop unsanctioned and illegal fishing. Gathering and assessing data using Polar Epsilon 2 ship detection data allows us to contribute to the collaborative efforts of the Dark Vessel Detection program." The Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

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