Date archives "December 2020"

New White Paper highlights new technology’s potential in sustainable fisheries

More than three billion people worldwide depend upon fish for a fifth of their protein intake. But fisheries are under extreme pressure. A third of species monitored by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization are being fished at an unsustainable level. Climate change is likely to force a global redistribution of fish stocks; countries in the tropics face a catch reduction of two fifths as fish migrate permanently away from oceans that are becoming too warm. And fish are consuming microplastics on a scale never seen before, with consequences that remain hard to predict.

The problems don’t end there. Of the approximately 180 million tonnes of fish landed worldwide each year, around 26 million tonnes are caught illegally. This huge catch is largely invisible to regulators, making it difficult for governments to protect their resources and manage fish stocks sustainably. This is an especially serious problem in regions where environmental threats to fisheries have already put stocks under strain: it makes life harder for responsible fishers, and could lead to a collapse in the availability of protein from the sea. In coastal regions, where fishing is often a key industry and provides a staple source of protein, that presents a potentially deadly threat to the survival of communities and legitimate sea-faring businesses.

Emerging technologies offer new ways for governments, regulators and commercial organisations to get a grip on these problems and others. A huge step-change in computing power has driven the emergence of faster and more capable data processing, new space-based sensors, autonomous marine systems and other technologies; and as computing power grows cheaper, many of these capabilities are within reach for governments and commercial organisations on a scale and at a price that would have been unimaginable just ten years ago.

This is where the Verumar project – supported by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnerships Programme (IPP) – comes in. The project uses satellite data, machine learning and other technologies to create a new level of sea vision, highlighting suspicious maritime activity across vast expanses of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. 

The consortium partners – Blue Economy experts NLA International, fisheries compliance specialists OceanMind, earth intelligence company MDA and consultants Poseidon are driving an approach that blends local knowledge with new datasets to ensure that surveillance and enforcement activities are always intelligence-led. 

Broader horizons

As the project began to bed in with the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), it became obvious that the satellite-enabled counter-illegal fishing programme was merely whetting the appetite for a broader set of innovative approaches. In order to offer a fuller understanding of broader potential, the Verumar team wrote and published a white paper, entitled Emerging Technologies and their Application in Fisheries Management

In an industrial sector congested with jargon and conflicting commercial interests, the white paper offers an accessible and balanced overview of technologies that have enormous potential to help protect the earth’s marine resources, and support the people and communities that depend upon them.

It offers a plain-English introduction to new technologies across nine major areas of development, including unmanned aircraft and vessels, data processing, sensors and internet of things (IOT), big data, cybersecurity, and satellite technology. 

Developing and presenting a more detailed understanding of the full range of capabilities helps to present a balanced vista of options, and how they might all combine to add value to governments and related agencies.

“We can build a kind of mosaic picture using each of these different capabilities as part of a surveillance strategy,” says Paul Gray, co-author of the White Paper. “For instance, you might take data from a range of satellites, different aerial platforms, unmanned surface vessels or in-situ sensors, and fuse and analyse these data in conjunction with other operational business data. Emerging tech, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, enables you to use many different sources of data, process and analyse it, to create actionable intelligence – and through the use of automation, increasingly, you can do that nearly in real time, so you can quickly get the results in front of a person who needs to use it.”

Long-lasting change

The white paper does not just limit itself to illegal fishing, and brings different technologies to life by offering real-world examples of how they are currently being put to use. As the 22 case studies in the report demonstrate, new technology and advances in existing technology are improving: fisherfolk safety at sea; the tracking of fish stocks; and helping scientists to understand the effects of climate change on the oceans. New capabilities are also being put to work to: support counter-piracy operations; improve the efficiency of fishing and cargo ports; keep people connected, and even to face up to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK Space Agency’s International Partnerships Programme (IPP) has helped companies and alliances like NLA International and Verumar to bring these capabilities to life for users across the globe. Gray says the benefits can outlast any individual project: “The IPP is all about future sustainability. We bring these technologies to the end users, and develop their uses together. Then when the project comes to an end, there’s a level of ability and capacity built in so that the end user can continue to use the capabilities into the long term, in a self-sustaining way.”

You can download the Emerging Technologies and their Application in Fisheries Management white paper here

The International Partnership Programme is part of, and is funded from, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government which supports cutting-edge research and innovation on global issues affecting developing countries.

International Partnership Programme – Scholarships for studying Space Science

A group of students from across the African continent have recently graduated from the University of Strathclyde after studying for an MSc in Satellite Applications with Data Science. The course itself is running for the first time after being developed by the University of Strathclyde with support from the UK Space Agency.

Seven students from five separate African countries were beneficiaries of a scholarship made available through the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP). Before the pandemic they travelled to Glasgow to undertake this new post-graduate course and have all
recently graduated this autumn.

The project titles of the students’ thesis include:

  • ‘Characterizing Wave Variability using Satellite Altimetry to improve access and decision-
  • making for Marine Renewable Energy’
  • ‘Comparative Analysis of Machine Learning Algorithms for Rainfall Forecasting in Aberdeen
  • using Satellite and Ground Station Data’
  • ‘Enabling precision agriculture by analysing remote sensing data from satellites and
  • supporting ground borne IOT sensors’
  • ‘Solar Electric Propulsive Video Imaging Satellite (SEPVIS)
  • ‘An Evaluation of Link Performance Based on Rainfall Attenuation for a LEO Communication
  • Satellite Constellation Over Africa’
  • ‘Evaluation of Scottish wetlands with satellite data to identify sustainable locations for future
  • artificial salt marsh farms’
  • ‘Building an effective automated emergency service for the Volta region in Ghana’

IPP is working to bridge the space and sustainable development communities. We are proud to support the next generation of space scientists from across the African continent to use satellites to respond to challenges on the ground.

Publication of IPP project case studies

The International Partnership Programme (IPP) seeks to bridge the space and development communities. Our projects utilise space technology to respond to development challenges on the ground. A key part of our programme is knowledge sharing; all of our IPP projects must produce a case study to publicise the progress of their work and the lessons learned.

Recent case studies include the PASSES project led by CGI. This project uses satellite radar technology to track the movement of peatlands across South East Asia.


Peatlands are a significant carbon store: between them, peatlands and organic soils contain 30% of the world’s soil carbon but only cover 3 percent of the Earth’s land area. These areas are at risk of degradation through intensive land use and mismanagement. Peatland conservation, restoration and improved management are low-hanging fruit for climate change mitigation and satellite enabled services like PASSES are essential for cost effective peatland management.

The ACCORD project lead by Earth-i have also recently published their case study. This project is working across Kenya and Rwanda helping farmers make timely, important decisions about crops with greater certainty than traditional methods.

The ACCORD project offers a smarter, data-driven solution by using satellite-enabled technology, combined with localised weather and ground truth data. The project so far has mapped nearly 50,000 fields, helping thousands of small-holder farmers make better decisions to improve the quantity and quality of the coffee they are producing.

The C-RISE project led by the National Oceanography Centre and Satellite Oceanographic Consultants is working with partners in Madagascar, Mozambique and Mauritius to provide satellite-derived data on sea level, winds, waves and currents to support vulnerable coastal populations in adapting to the consequences of climate variability and change.

The project enables institutions in the partner countries to work with the C-RISe products to inform decision-making. It enables effective uptake of C-RISe data by commercial and operational sectors in the region and contributes to the improved management of coastal regions, enabling these countries to build increased coastal resilience to natural hazards.

These are just some of the case study publications coming from the IPP programme. The majority of current IPP projects are due to run until March 2021 and we expect to continue to see the publication of further case studies and details of further impacts made.

A wider range of satellite enabled development solutions can be found in our Space solutions for Development catalogue; here we have collated a series of space enabled development tools. These tools respond to a full range of Development challenges and are aimed at operational users in developing countries.