Smart Boat Initiative to boost maritime sustainability

smart boat initiative
© iStock/higyou

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has announced the launch of its Smart Boat Initiative, using new technology to promote sustainability in fishing.

The EDF, a US-based environmental advocacy non-profit, announced the launch of the initiative yesterday at the sixth annual World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi. The Smart Boat Initiative will build on existing deployments of technology in fisheries by other businesses, governments, academic bodies and NGOs to develop the targeted use of new and emerging technologies to increase both sustainability and transparency within the fishing industry.

Katie McGinty, Senior Vice President of the EDF Oceans programme, said: “Just as smart phones provided a platform for a wave of innovation, we believe there is an equally unprecedented opportunity to usher in a new era of sustainability in the global fishing sector led by digital transformation. This new initiative seeks to deploy technology to help solve one of the most urgent challenges of our time: overfishing. A critical element of the initiative is that it aims to provide fishermen with the tools to play a leading role in solving that problem.”

The EDF noted that, while rapid advances in technology have provided substantial benefits for gathering and monitoring of data in other industries, the fishing sector remains relatively unaffected by technological solutions; with many vessels still recording data with pens and paper. They highlighted three innovations which are likely to have the greatest impact on sustainable aquaculture under the Smart Boat Initiative:

  • Sensors to monitor ocean conditions, enabling vessels to better target specific species of fish, avoid unnecessary habitat destruction and avoid marine hazards such as oil spills;
  • Artificial intelligence technology, allowing onboard computers to use machine learning to automate processes; and
  • Broadband networks, which will let vessels share data with each other and with onshore management.

McGinty added: “We believe this set of technologies represents widespread benefits, not only for future conservation, but also for fishermen today; but without more work to refine these technologies, build them with fishermen’s needs in mind, increase deployment and share best practices, fisheries will remain stuck in the digital dark ages. That’s why we’ve launched the Smart Boat Initiative and why we’re optimistic about the future health of the ocean and all those who depend on it.”

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