CSIR technology “sees” vessels even if Automatic Identification Systems are off
Technology developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was integral to identifying and locating foreign trawlers fishing illegally in South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) last month. The EEZ is more than one and a half million square kilometres of ocean home to a diverse and rich marine ecology, the Pretoria-headquartered national research organisation said. This makes it an easy target for illegal fishing because of the difficulty of effectively patrolling such a huge expanse of ocean. Illegal fishing vessels are able to hide in the deep ocean and remain undetected for months while stealing thousands of tons of fish, rightfully belonging to South Africa. “Under a month ago a large fishing vessel was detected in the South African EEZ using CSIR developed technology,” said Dr Waldo Kleynhans, the man who invented what is now called SeaFAR. “It utilises synthetic aperture radars, optical satellites and satellite automatic identification systems coupled with ‘clever algorithms’ to detect and identify vessels exhibiting suspicious behaviour. “Notwithstanding the vessel’s inactive transponder, SeaFAR was able to detect it. A satellite overpass was tasked from the SeaFAR system to obtain imagery (a synthetic aperture radar scene). It continued to monitor the EEZ and detected the same vessel with its transponders off.