Namibia looks to drones to fight illegal fishing

The Namibian government has confirmed that it is looking into the possibilities if deploying drone technology to combat illegal fishing in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In a statement, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources said they were investigating the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in monitoring, control and surveillance activities aimed at combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

“With respect to IUU, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is investigating the usefulness of drones in improving our operations,” the statement read in part. “For instance, if a patrol craft (vehicle or patrol vessel) is in the vicinity of where a drone detects IUU fishing activity, the craft can be directed there to further investigate and take appropriate action.

“However, if there is no patrol craft in the vicinity, a drone would only be useful if it can produce credible evidence that can be accepted in courts. For instance, high-quality pictures that can be used to positively identify the culprit(s), provide the GPS position, date, time and the type of activity being conducted at the time,” read the statement from the fisheries ministry.”

The statement added that the ongoing research is expected to determine whether drones will be able to provide any operational improvements, considering the resources the ministry currently using to conduct surveillance within the country’s EEZ.

The Namibian EEZ, which the ministry is tasked to monitor, is a territory over 500,000 square kilometres stretching for well over 1,500km along the South Atlantic coastline and also covering the rich fishing territory of the Benguela Current System.

Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the area is also a magnet for fish pirates, who swoop in with their large pirate vessels, and whose poaching activities are said to be costing Namibia billions of dollars’ worth in economic revenue every year.

The outcome of these investigations and consultations with relevant stakeholders, inclusive of cost-benefit analysis, will determine when the fisheries ministry will commence with drone usage.

“In deciding on the use of drones, a number of things needs to be determined. Amongst others is the range, the usefulness of the pictures taken by the drones, and the ability to detect IUU fishing activities at night,” the ministry told local media.

“The ministry is cognisant of the fact that our world is dynamic and has changed tremendously with respect to the use of technology, and is required to keep up with these new changes. The ministry assures the industry and public at large that it will execute its mandate with utmost diligence and professionalism, to ensure the sustainability of marine resources for the benefit of the Namibian people.”

The fisheries ministry is mandated to enforce fisheries laws at sea, along the coastal line and public inland water bodies such as rivers, dams and lakes.  

Recently, the Namibian police force received a drone to aid its policing efforts; perhaps they will also find the small aircraft useful in curbing illegal fishing.


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