Mauritius Research and Innovation Council (MRIC) is collaborating with the Surrey Space Center (SSC), University of Surrey, UK, on a project titled: “NEREUS – A Space-Based Maritime Surveillance System for Fisheries Monitoring and Anomaly Detection” supported by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Ocean Innovation Challenge.
In 2022, the UNDP announced the second cohort of Ocean Innovators selected internationally for their proposed solutions to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, with particular emphasis on sustainable fisheries and blue economy threatened by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The NEREUS project proposed by the SSC in partnership with the MRIC was selected as one of the Ocean Innovators in June 2022.
The Republic of Mauritius has a vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.4 million square kilometers. The Blue Economy represents 15% of the country’s GDP and fishing is a major contributor. However, this economy is threatened by IUU fishing. Hence, monitoring maritime activity is of utmost importance for the Republic of Mauritius. However, to build maritime surveillance solutions that offer accurate, timely, and actionable insights, we need the right data.
The NEREUS project will use remote sensing imagery and data such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Automatic Identification System (AIS), sourced from a wide network of collaborators and in-kind contributing partners including the UK Space Agency, JAXA, Capella Space, Satellite VU and the Ministry of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping of the Republic of Mauritius. These data will be processed using machine learning approaches to derive a near-real time footprint of fishing vessels adopting ‘abnormal’ behavior in the EEZ of the Republic of Mauritius. The application will also provide a method of classification of fishing vessels and include anomaly detection techniques based on machine learning with characteristics of automation and high scalability to the rest of the world.
NEREUS aspires to be a very potent tool to consolidate the measures set in place by the Republic of Mauritius to tackle Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing to thereby contributing to the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water.
Specific Objectives of NEREUS are:
- Quantification of the extent of legal and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Mauritius EEZ and MPAs and evaluate its economic impact.
- Improvement of the support to the local government in stopping IUU activities in the EEZ and prosecuting responsible parties
- Support of the restoration of marine life and fish stocks in the Mauritius EEZ.
- Development of an understanding and support for the economic recovery from fishery practices in Mauritius.
In view of soliciting the engagement of local stakeholders, a workshop is being organized on the 16th of January 2023. These stakeholders include representatives of, the Ministry of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation, the Ministry of Blue Economy, public and private sector fisheries and shipping stakeholders, academia, Officers of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare among others.
The outcomes of this innovative prediction tool that will be developed from this project would be shared with the Mauritian Authorities as an additional tool to consolidate our existing measures for combating IUU in our territorial waters.