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Canada launches “dark vessel” program to combat IUU

SeafoodSource By Chris Chase

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has announced the launch of a new CAD 7 million (USD 5.5 million, EUR 4.7 million) program designed to track vessels deliberately avoiding automatic location devices.

The program, called the Dark Vessel Detection Program, is being launched in collaboration with Canada’s Department of National Defence, Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science, Global Affairs Canada, and MDA, DFO announced. The goal is to reduce illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing by tracking around the world by identifying vessels that are deliberately turning off automatic tracking devices.

"Illegal fishing threatens the health of our fish stocks and takes resources away from hard-working, law-abiding fishers,” Canada Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan said. “Through the Dark Vessel Detection Program, we're partnering with other ocean nations to better detect and prevent illegal fishing around the world. We're investing in one of the leading, most innovative systems on the planet to ensure our fish stocks are protected, our fisheries remain lucrative, and the law is upheld at sea."

The new program will provide satellite data and analysis to small island nations and coastal states where IUU fishing is an issue. The data will be used to identify “dark” vessels from above, assisting small nations in investigating and enforcing against IUU.

The new program builds on a pilot program launched by DFO earlier this year. That program, according to DFO, has already led to significant fines for five foreign vessels caught participating in IUU fishing.   

"The Department of National Defence is well-positioned to contribute to these efforts to stop unsanctioned and illegal fishing,” Canada Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan said. 

The new Dark Vessel Detection program, Canada Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau said, stems from strong collaborations with international partners.

“This state-of-the-art system will help Ecuador and small island nations in the Pacific region respond to illegal fishing impacting the Galapagos Islands and the food and economic security of its people,” Garneau said. “Canada is committed to innovative partnerships to create a sustainable future for all."

IUU fishing has been estimated to cost the world economy billions of dollars annually, with millions of metric tons of fish caught illegally each year.  

Photo courtesy of NOAA