Project Name: CUSTODIAN
Activity years: 2022 - 2024
Funding: EEA Grants Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway Grants
Budget: 993.571,00 €
Host Institution: SOLVIT
Partners: AIRCentre, Terinov, Lotaçor, Docapesca, UAVIsion, Universidade Técnica da Noruega, Instituto Superior de Engenharia de Lisboa (ISEL).
Professor António João Nunes Serrador - ORCID ID: 0000-0002-7554-3312
Professor Carlos Alberto Barreiro Mendes (Researcher in charge/ISEL) - ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1406-4761
Professor João Carlos Ferreira de Almeida Casaleiro - ORCID ID: 0000-0002-4722-0954
Professor José Manuel de Campos Lages Garcia Simão - ORCID ID: 0000-0002-6564-593X
Professor Matilde Pós-de-Mina Pato - ORCID ID: 0000-0001-8976-7651
Professor Nuno Miguel Machado Cruz - ORCID ID: 0000-0001-8570-8670
Professor Nuno Miguel Soares Datia - ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1600-0227
The Portuguese authorities reported in 2019 that a major limitation of the current fishing monitoring system is the lack of tracking of small vessels (1). Existing tracking systems such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which broadcasts the position of a vessel in real-time, is legally required in fishing vessels flagged by EU countries, but only in those with a total length above 15 meters. Since 2016, such vessels are also legally required to mark their buoys with AIS devices, allowing monitoring of fishing gear and its retrieval, while also facilitating the obligatory process of notifying lost gear to the authorities. The Continuous Monitoring of Fishing Activities (MONICAP) system (piloted in Portugal), and which operates based on satellite communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) is an expensive system to implement and run and, for several technical reasons (including power usage and size), it is not practical on small vessels and not applicable to buoys. Neither MONICAP nor AIS are required in smaller vessels, implying that an important segment of the fishing fleet is not tracked at all. Indeed, in Portugal, from the 7.768 fishing vessels registered in 2019, only 10% have a total length over 12 meters, representing 13% of the national gross tonnage.
Hence, there is a need for a tracking system to be used in smaller vessels, since existing systems are not technically compatible with these.
Additionally, fishing gear lost at sea is a major and global cause of concern. Firstly, as it is mainly made of plastic materials, it contributes to both micro and macro-plastic pollution. Secondly, the gear continues fishing, even while lost, causing futile ecosystem depletion. Thirdly, as currents drag the lost gear back and forth along the seabed, it destroys ecosystems. Fourthly, it constitutes a hazard for navigation. Fifthly, strayed gear represents an asset loss for fishermen. Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is globally estimated at 5.7% of all fishing nets, 8.6% of all traps and 29% of all lines. In Europe, an estimated 20% of fishing gear is lost at sea (2). Although the problem is global, for the case of Portugal, a study estimates that fishermen spend 10% of their annual budget in efforts to locate and repair lost fishing gear (3). In other words, the economic impact of lost gear to the fishing industry is estimated to represent an annual loss of 10% of net income in Portugal. To avoid losing gear, some fishermen already use expensive tracking equipment for buoys. However, its price and logistics related to power consumption and short range, limit its use to larger vessels that can afford the initial investment. Furthermore, such systems are privately owned and operated, meaning that their data is not shared across devices or systems or with the authorities.
A tracking system based on low-power/long-range technology that is useable by smaller vessels is also installable in buoys of fishing gear.
The project will develop such a system (Custodian), consisting of three devices and a web platform (all TRL 4 to 9), that supports the delivery of services which will address the problems previously identified. Additionally, it creates new knowledge that supports the blue economy and introduces new products into the market with potential to scale up and out. This system will have the active participation of the (Azorean) Regional Directorate of Fisheries (DRP), who will be the only holder of all the live location and identification data once the system is running. As attested in their support letter, the DRP is involved as one of the main participants for the definition of requirements of the devices and the digital platform, and, as main users, will be heavily involved with development and testing and later in the requirements of the analytical components specifically dedicated to the management of the marine resources.
The project will comprise the following activities: Development of Research, Requirements and Specifications; Device Design, Development, Validation and Certification; Research and Investigation of New Knowledge and Integration on the Platform; Study the Expansion o f Custodian to Other Atlantic Markets; Study the Integration of Custodian with Other Platforms; Promotion and Communication.
Custodian shall develop and demonstrate in co-design with end-users (fisherman and associations), local authorities (Regional Directorate of Fisheries) and researchers (academic and research institutions), the creation of small low-cost, user-oriented, devices that can be attached to fishing buoys, to transmit their current location, and to vessels, to, aditionally, receive alerts, messages, and other relevant data. The low-power devices (for buoys will be battery-operated lasting several years) will have a GNSS sensor (that provides position based on, for example, Galileo and GPS) and a LoRaWAN transceiver, that allows for transmitting and receiving data. The data communicated by the devices will be received by a cloud server where it is stored and then accessed and managed by computer applications, the whole making up the Custodian platform. While the devices are commercial, Custodian shall remain an open platform and the community may create hundreds of services based on it. Data protection will follow the GDPR EU standards.
Taking all of the above mentioned, Custodian will dramatically increase the amount of data available for data-based policymaking and to manage the fishing industry and ecosystems. Furthermore, the near real-time vessel location is a significant addition to the safety of both humans and assets at sea, actively protecting the sea from ghost fishing, plastic pollution and habitat destruction; as well as fisherman’s income, without increasing the catch.