Automated vessels being trialled to target illegal fishing off WA

A nation-first trial using automated vessels to target illegal fishing in marine parks is set to take place off Western Australia’s coast.

The yacht-like vessel is the latest technology being released to improve water surveillance.

Last year, two underwater recorders called ‘sound traps’ were installed at Two Rocks Marine Park to monitor marine activity during the Western Rock Lobster migration event.

With the use of the technology, 15 illegal recreational fishing incidents were detected, with penalty fines of $687 issued per incident.

The two uncrewed marine vessels, known as Bluebottles, captured 24/7 real-time imagery of activity in waters off Jurien Bay and Two Rocks in a 30-day trial conducted by Parks Australia through January and February.

The 22-foot vessels look similar to a small yacht, but their purpose is to focus on the protection and surveillance of WA’s marine parks.

Federal Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, said the trial would be used to target illegal fishing activity in marine park no-take zones.

Ms Plibersek said the unmanned vessels could cover a much larger area for a longer period of time than conventional manned craft; can provide footage in real time; and autonomously monitor areas for months at a time. They are equipped with 360-degree day and night, infrared cameras, radar and satellite communications.

Ms Plibersek did not rule out the possibility of wider operations with other government bodies.

Drones with high-resolution cameras are also being tested in no-fish zones of Australian marine parks.

Suspicious or illegal activity in Australian Marine Parks can be reported to the hotline number – 1800 852 975, or email [email protected].