Using Drones for IUU Surveillance and Marine Megafauna Monitoring in MPAs
Fleets of Indian and Sri Lankan fishers cross half of the Indian Ocean in order to poach commercially valuable sharks and fish living on BIOT’s shallow reefs. Sharks are one of the world’s most endangered group of marine animals and are threatened by fishers targeting them for their fins which are sold to a predominantly Southeast Asian market. Although all body parts can be consumed or used for a wide variety of purposes, the fineless sharks are often thrown back into the ocean, condemned to a slow death.
We are, to our knowledge, the first team to develop a fixed-wing, waterproofed and water-landing drone specifically for applications in illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishery surveillance and marine megafauna monitoring. Governance issues in marine protected areas are common and being able to manage and monitor large expanses of water is challenging. Dr. Tom Letessier is the principal investigator on the project assisted by Melissa Schiele.
Using megafauna detections, we will explore which models detect a difference in megafauna abundance with varying proximity to populated, high use MPA areas. We will develop a flight protocol for MPA patrol rangers to follow, to gather usable data and images on illegal fishers, which will help build a baseline of activities and potentially act as evidence in court.
This project takes a multidisciplinary approach to this issue at the interface of real-world application and academia.
How can Innovative Technology Protect Wildlife from Extinction?
Using Reef Sharks as an Anti-Poaching Force
Influence of Altitude on Tropical Marine Habitat Classification using Imagery from Fixed-Wing, Water-Landing UAVs
Ellis, S.L., Taylor, M.L., Schiele, M. and Letessier, T.B. (2020) Influence of Altitude on Tropical Marine Habitat Classification using Imagery from Fixed-Wing, Water-Landing UAVs. Remote Sensing for Ecology and Conservation.
Amphibious Drone Field Report, Belize
Schiele, M. and Letessier, T. (2019) Amphibious Drone Field Report, Belize. In partnership with the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, Zoological Society of London, the Marine Management Organisation and the Bertarelli Foundation. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.35265.92004.
Isolation and No-Entry Marine Reserves Mitigate Anthropogenic Impacts on Grey Reef Shark Behavior
Juhel, J. B., Vigliola, L., Wantiez, L., Letessier, T. B., Meeuwig, J. J., & Mouillot, D. (2019). Isolation and no-entry marine reserves mitigate anthropogenic impacts on grey reef shark behavior. Scientific reports, 9(1), 2897.
Remote Reefs and Seamounts are the Last Refuges for Marine Predators across the Indo-Pacific
Letessier, T. B., Mouillot, D., Bouchet, P. J., Vigliola, L., Fernandes, M. C., Thompson, C., … & Caley, M. J. (2019). Remote reefs and seamounts are the last refuges for marine predators across the Indo-Pacific. PLoS biology, 17(8), e3000366.
Reef Accessibility Impairs the Protection of Sharks
Juhel, J. B., Vigliola, L., Mouillot, D., Kulbicki, M., Letessier, T. B., Meeuwig, J. J., & Wantiez, L. (2018). Reef accessibility impairs the protection of sharks. Journal of applied ecology, 55(2), 673-683.