Illegal Blast Fishing Could Be Stopped Thanks to Breakthrough Technology

Feb 17 2016 Read 1473 Times

Marine life in the Malaysian state of Sabah has long been under threat by ruthless fishermen who use the technique of ‘blast fishing’ to indiscriminately destroy plant and animal life underwater. Though the method is outlawed, unscrupulous companies regularly employ it to hunt their prey. For several years, the authorities have been engaged in a difficult battle with these renegade companies to detect their movements and put a stop to their illegal activities.

However, their job may have just become a whole lot easier with the advent of a breakthrough new technology, capable of detecting blasts from a distance of up to 25km away.

Why Fish Blasting Is Illegal

Fish blasting may be an effective technique to simultaneously kill and capture a large number of fish, but it is highly irresponsible and doesn’t give a thought to the longevity of the world we live in and our responsibility to preserve it.

The shockwaves caused by such blasts wreak havoc on local ecosystems, killing all manner of life in the vicinity without regard to how it will affect the future of the region. They can also pose a threat to coral reefs in nearby areas. Corals are not only valuable habitats for a myriad of marine life, they can also serve a purpose for humans, too. Not only are they beautiful and fascinating to explore, they can actually serve as a natural archive of environmental and climatic changes.

Because, the practice is and has been against the law for some time – but catching offenders has proved to be a problem for the authorities. In a bid to deter such illegal activity, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Stop Fish Bombing (SFB) was set up in 2015. SFB now have a very powerful tool in their arsenal in the fight against fish blasters.

Technology to the Rescue

The SFB is a joint venture between three distinct organisations in three different countries. Under its umbrella are Teng Hoi, an NGO from Hong Kong which has carried out prior research on fish bombing soundwaves in 2004; Scubazoo, a media outlet which has its headquarters in Kota Kinabalu and ShotSpotter, a tech company based in silicon valley which has successfully engineered technology capable of detecting gunshots in cities across the USA.  

By applying the ShotSpotter technology to underwater shockwaves, the SFB are now able to detect explosions beneath the surface of the waters surrounding Sabah from a distance of as much as 25km away. They can then accurately pinpoint the GPS location of the offending boats within a radius of 20m, all within a few seconds. Such a breakthrough in fish blasting detection should lead to the arrest of many practitioners of the outlawed technique and prevent its use in the future.

“Sabah is set to become a beacon of hope for the rest of the world,” enthused Simon Christopher, chief executive of Scubazoo. SFB are now lobbying local companies to install the detectors at crucial locations in the immediate vicinity of Sabah.

Image Source: The World Fish Center  
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