Many fishing vessels plunder the oceans with impunity. To locate boats that sail without an identification system, scientists have called on an unusual ally: the albatross.
Albatross equipped with beacons
Described by Baudelaire as a “left and long” and “comical and ugly” bird, the albatross has more than flaws. “This winged traveler” is able to travel very long distances and has a curious temperament that drives him to go to the boats. These are qualities that are of great interest to researchers.
Aimed at monitoring the sea, including illegal fishing, the Ocean Sentinel program has found, along with the albatross, perfect allies. Scientists at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chizé (CNRS/La Rochelle University) have equipped 169 birds with beacons capable of detecting the radars of fishing boats. These beacons include an Argos antenna, GPS and a miniaturized radar detector.
Illegal fishing, a very lucrative activity
Experience has shown that of the 47 million km2 of the Southern Ocean monitored, more than a third of the vessels approached by the albatross had disabled their automatic identification system. A process that prevents their identification and leaves them free to fish illegally.
Better than a drone, the albatross is the ideal spy to spot poaching boats. According to the nature protection association WWF, their activities amount to between 8 and 19 billion euros.
An Ocean Sentinel mission
This project was developed as part of a European ERC Proof of Concept program, with the support of the French Polar Institute Paul-Emile Victor, Ocean Sentinel encourages the development of innovations that make it possible to collect conservation data-independent thanks to animals. explains the CNRS
The Ocean Sentinel method is being tested in New Zealand and Hawaii. In the near future, other marine species may be required to carry out the same type of surveillance mission. They would be sharks and sea turtles.