Southern IFCA operates two drones for inshore fisheries management, including enforcement and research work. Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are small aircraft, remote-controlled from the ground by a pilot; they can have various camera attachments and have recording capabilities. The drones operated by the Southern IFCA are the DJI M300 fitted with a H20T camera and the DJI Mini 2 drone.
The Southern IFCA drones are flown by officers who have completed the GVC (General Visual Line of Sight Certificate) course. The pilots operate the drones under a Civil Aviation Authority Authorisation. The Remote Pilots are assisted by other officers who fulfil the roles of Observers and Camera Operators.
Drones for Fisheries Enforcement
There are a number of spatial, temporal and gear restrictions across the Southern IFCA District. The use of the DJI M300 improves the Southern IFCA Compliance and Enforcement Team (CET) capabilities in monitoring these restrictions, by enabling aerial monitoring and enhanced evidence gathering.
In addition to monitoring restrictions, the drones assist the CET by enabling crucial evidence to be gathered in areas associated with previous non-compliance; for example, identifying illegal gear being deployed or discarded, locating discarded shellfish, fish and gear, providing additional evidence to support VMS data and monitoring IFCA Codes of Practice.
Drones can be used quickly in dynamic environments to monitor, record and evidence illegal activity that may not otherwise be seen. The drones enhance our capabilities, increasing the detection of criminal acts and improving prevention rates by acting as a deterrent.
Drones for Fisheries Management
The DJI M300 drone can provide accurate GPS positioning using a laser rangefinder, which is not only useful for enforcement but also in fisheries management. The aerial ability to capture and record images and data also contribute towards an improved surveying capability and will further the Southern IFCA’s understanding of fishing activity in the District which can feed into management measures.
The drones can be deployed for routine observations, checks and research. We are already using it to map different intertidal habitats, and we see it as a valuable survey and monitoring platform as well as an enforcement tool.
The Southern IFCA drones support the work of the Compliance and Enforcement Team (CET), with its various imaging capabilities helping the team to monitor, identify and evidence non-compliant fishing activities.
Poole Harbour Dredge Permit Fishery
Vessels must be issued valid permits to fish using a dredge. There are a number of spatial closures in the harbour where dredging is prohibited.
Dredge fishing must only occur between the hours of 06:00 and 18:00 in the open season. The fishery is closed from Deccember 24 to May 24.
The drone’s camera enables officers to obtain imagery and positional data of vessels, therefore establishing if a vessel is in breach of any spatial closures.
The thermal imaging capabilities allow the harbour to be monitored at night outside of the curfew, and evidence of unlicensed fishing or curfew/closed season breaches to be recorded.
Hand Gathering Activity
Officers have conducted a number of joint working operations with partner agencies to tackle multi-agency concerns relating to shellfish gathering. This type of activity typically takes place over large areas of intertidal shoreline.
The drone’s thermal imaging and zoom camera capabilities enable officers to monitor large intertidal areas and assess activity, locating any shellfish hand gatherers, who can then be engaged with and inspected for compliance.
The drone capability has been widely publicised to the industry and the wider community. When in use the drone will be operated overtly in full view of the community by officers in Southern IFCA uniform. When used in relation to the fishing industry the drone will be used primarily as an evidence gathering tool in the detection of offences, however this will also serve to support legitimate fishers by demonstrating their compliance with regulations to the Authority and wider community, with first-hand evidence obtained through the drone deployment.
Deploying unmanned aircraft feeds into the National IFCA TAG’s) vision of developing innovative survey methodology through drones. We intend to work with other Government Partners and IFCAs to ensure that we are delivering best value for money. We can certainly see the benefit of increasing our pilot numbers and we will keep an eye on drone technology as it develops and how this can be applied and used.
It is only by leading, championing and managing a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries that we can be successful as an Association.