Satlink study reveals introduction of satellite broadband technology onboard facilitates sustainable fishing and breaks the isolation of crews

Satlink study reveals introduction of satellite broadband technology onboard facilitates sustainable fishing and breaks the isolation of crews

  • Following the full installation of these systems in the second half of 2019, 404,407 minutes of calls (6,740 hours) have been consumed in 2020, with an average consumption of six hours per seafarer, breaking the traditional isolation of this activity.
  • With increased fishing regulations in all oceans, selective smart buoys – which facilitate the sustainability of fishing operations by helping to differentiate species – are replacing traditional buoys at a rate of 20% in the last two years.

According to a study conducted by Spanish technology company Satlink, the emergence of flat-rate satellite broadband telecommunications for the maritime sector has had a special impact on the Spanish fishing fleet in two specific areas of its activity.

Specifically, and according to the conclusions of the report, in the digitalisation of operations – with a special impact on aspects of their sustainability – and in the improvement of communications in deep-sea fishing, as crews now have the capacity to contact their families, making a decisive contribution to the so-called social sustainability of the Spanish fleet.

In fact, and according to the data from this first study, which has taken the long-distance tuna fishing fleet (Spanish vessels operating in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans) as a reference, the implementation of these new services is having an impact on the increasing use of so-called selective smart buoys. This type of buoy is capable of informing vessels not only about the situation of fish stocks, but also about their volume and the type of species in their composition. This capability has a direct impact on sustainability, as it makes it possible to discriminate and select fishing, that is, to minimise the capture of juveniles or those species for which there may be restrictions.

Moreover, since the launch of these selective buoys by Satlink in the second half of 2017, the replacement of this type of buoys is beginning to spread, especially in the Indian and Atlantic oceans, with growth rates of over 20% year-on-year in the last two years and with a forecast of over 30% growth by 2021.

According to Faustino Velasco, President of Satlink, “fleets are faced with limited buoy use per vessel and increasingly restrictive fishing quotas in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, and fishermen are increasingly in need of such a tool. The selective buoy allows them to adjust their activity, respecting quotas, improve the sustainability of fish stocks and ostensibly reduce the carbon footprint of their operations by requiring shorter navigation distances.”

Electronic observer

Another service to promote the sustainability of fishing activity that has grown considerably with the introduction of satellite technology is the electronic observer. These systems make it possible to video record fishing activity on board to subsequently analyse the images and evaluate practices in the treatment of by-catches -catches of species not targeted by the vessel- or compliance with regulations, both in terms of fishing activity and working conditions on the vessel.

On this service, and according to the Satlink study, the recording of “days at sea”, in the case of the tuna fleet, has increased at a rate of 30% year-on-year since the incorporation of broadband technology on vessels. Thus, if in 2016 there were a total of 2,896 days of recorded activity, in 2020 this figure rose to 8,000 days, in many cases with simultaneous presence of electronic and human observers under the control of the flag state or a coastal state, allowing the coverage of observer schemes to be extended and thus ensuring that the observer can continue to carry out his scientific work from land thanks to the technology.

Improving crew communication

Likewise, and from the point of view of social sustainability, following the complete installation of these systems (second half of 2019) on the first 28 vessels of this fleet, 404,407 minutes of calls (6,740 hours) have been consumed in 2020, with an average consumption of six hours for each of the 1,100 sailors working on board these vessels.

Of this total, the highest percentage by half-year occurred during the first half of 2020, with 229,769 minutes of calls, coinciding with the lockdown imposed by COVID-19 and which forced many crews to extend the period away from home due to the difficulties involved in relieving them.

Also, the study reflects increases in the use of the service coinciding with different periods, such as the Christmas period. For example, during the months of December 2019 and 2020, 30,000 minutes of calls were exceeded. Likewise, seafarers working in the Atlantic Ocean use this type of service the most, with 205,000 minutes in 2020, compared to 119,400 minutes for those working in the Indian Ocean and 80,000 minutes for those in the Pacific.

In the case of data traffic (social networks, instant messaging, or streaming content), the analysis covers the period from December 2020 to February 2021, and the situation is the opposite, with ships operating in the Pacific registering the highest consumption with 10,900 GB, followed by those in the Atlantic with 4,500 GB and, lastly, those in the Indian Ocean with 2,500 GB. This is explained, according to Satlink, by the greater sailing distance that the Pacific fleet must travel to reach the fishing areas.

Next steps in technology

One of Satlink’s latest developments is a revolutionary digital system that brings together on a single screen all the information needed to optimise fishing activity. To this end, the system integrates real-time data and forecasts of all aspects that affect this activity, such as meteorology, oceanography, fish shoal movements or typologies, among others. The system allows fishermen to make more informed decisions, improving the sustainability and efficiency of tuna fishing.

According to Faustino Velasco, “fishing is an art and there is no doubt that it will continue to be so, but new technologies are going to revolutionise this activity just as they have done in other market sectors and industries.

“The fishing sector,” he adds, “is not going to remain on the sidelines, and technology and digitalisation are going to help shipowners and fishermen to develop their activity in a more efficient, sustainable and closer way.”

Source: Press Release

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