NMT Experts Helping Address Illegal Fishing in Indonesia

NMT Experts Helping Address Illegal Fishing in Indonesia

ICASA Computer Scientists Drafted for ‘Intelligence Fusion Exercise’

SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech scientists will be developing new technology, instruments and methods for combatting illegal fishing in Indonesian waters.

University officials hosted an event in early November titled "Technologies to Counter Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in Indonesian Waters." NMT President Dr. Stephen Wells and V.P. of Research Dr. Van Romero welcomed the delegation and pledged NMT's assistance in addressing the issue.

Ten high-ranking Indonesian government officials and several U.S. government officials attended the event, along with scientists and engineers from NMT and other institutions and private industry. Illegal fishing in Indonesian waters costs the country as much as $20 billion annually in lost revenue and threatens the food supply, the environment, and regional political stability. 

The symposium addressed concerns with developing concepts for technology solutions to fuse available data streams, such as satellite imagery, to interdict and predict illegal fishing activity.

Dr. Richard Miller, associate vice president of research at NMT, said the Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis, or ICASA, has the personnel and expertise to address the issues facing Indonesian officials.

“ICASA – they are exceptional at analysis,” Miller said. “They try to make sense out of complex systems and reveal information that’s not self-evident.”

Miller and Dr. Van Romero, V.P. of Research at NMT, learned about the issues facing Indonesia regarding illegal fishing earlier this year at a meeting with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We decided Tech has expertise that can help them come up with a model that helps to interdict and predict illegal fishing activity in their waters,” Miller said. “ICASA is able to recognize and identify patters that would help identify the bad actors. That’s their specialty. This is an intelligence fusion exercise.”

Miller said ICASA scientists will accomplish their mission by using an assortment of data sources – satellite imagery, boat transponder data, and spectral analysis.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, analyzes available satellite imagery; however, NOAA’s instruments aren’t calibrated to correlate imagery with the actual wattage of lights on ships at sea and many illegal fishing vessels use light sources to attract fish.  Discussion is underway about the possibility of New Mexico Tech building a calibration target at its Playas Training and Research Center, which could be configured as necessary and assist with the refinement of NOAA's imagery analysis algorithms.  


 “Hopefully, we can correlate brightness data with fishing licenses, government records, and transponder data to see if ships are where they are supposed to be,” Miller said. “These are the sorts of analyses that ICASA can sort out for them.”

– NMT –