FISHSAT - Integrated Satellite Services for Fishing Support and Safety

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Industrial fishing capacity has grown significantly over the last decades whereas an excessive depletion of some fish stocks has taken place. At the same time, fuel costs are on the rise. As a result, especially for small boats fishing has become much more difficult and less profitable. FISHSAT is conceived as a system of systems employing space assets (Earth Observation, Satellite Navigation and Satellite Communication) to improve collaboration between markets, fisheries and enforcement authorities. The intended benefit of FISHSAT is to increase the efficiency of fishing activities, match better the market demand, improve catch traceability and strengthen enforcement.

Objectives of the service

The study addresses the needs of two main stakeholders: Fisheries and Sea Authorities (enforcement).  Fisheries involved so far are those making coastal fishing with small-size boats.  Such fleets of relatively small vessels are recognized by the Common Fisheries Policies as the best suited to perform fishing in a sustainable manner, because of their limited impact on the sea environment.  The need for better product traceability, better market prices, lower operational cost and reduction of illegal an unregulated fishing represents therefore a common ground between both stakeholders. FISHSAT can build on this, through an innovative integration of space assets with conventional information and communication technologies.

The FISHSAT feasibility study aims at designing, developing and validating a first basic prototype of a distributed system (onboard & onshore) that provides information services for more efficient, more compliant and more sustainable fishing. The study will also identify the viability (incl. legal, political, financial, technical, operational aspects) and define the business roadmap for the implementation of the FISHSAT system and its associated services towards acceptance and commercialization.

Users and their needs

Fisheries need to secure the long term health of fish resources and the livelihoods of the fishermen who depend on them. There is a need for lower cost, e.g. by reducing fuel consumption per catch, better prices for the fish, e.g. by better connection to market demand. Fisheries will benefit from a sustainable use of the sea's resources, fair competition, and reliable stock estimation and quota setting. Sea Authority aim to effectively enforce law by monitoring fishing activities and by repressing illegal fishing practices.

Service/ system concept

Support to Fisheries

Improve fishing capability.

  • Biological and physical sea parameters derived from EO imagery will be used to assess the presence of fish in the permitted areas.  The suggestion of most productive zones should contribute to reduce the fishing effort.

Improve marketing capability.

  • Data on catches will be anticipated to fishery ground centre while vessels are still at sea, in order to setup an early marketing strategy.
  • A quality mark will be devised based on data acquired during the fishing session. Product traceability will account for both its healthiness and sustainability.  Products will be labelled with such a mark.

Improve crew safety.

  • Message exchange between shore and fisheries will be possible in case of critical situations.

Support to the respect of fishing regulation.

  • The onboard system will include an electronic logbook of catches.  The mandatory Catches Report will be submitted automatically to the Sea Authority ensuring compliance.
  • Sea areas where fishing is forbidden will be displayed to boat crew in real time.  A warning will be raised in case some illegal activity is initiated in such areas.

Support to Sea AuthoritiesFigure 1: FISHSAT Service Concept Overview

Improve the Sea Authority monitoring capability.

  • A SatCom based AIS forwarding system installed on the fishing vessels will let the Sea Authority know also about the position of some boats whose AIS signal would be beyond reach from coast.
  • Data sensed onboard about e.g. the status of net and line deployment will allow the Sea Authority to know about fishing boat behaviour. Sea temperature and other data for statistic analysis can be collected through the fishing vessels.
  • Catches data recorded onboard will allow the Sea Authority to know about catch amount and type

Improve the Sea Authority capability to fight illegal fishing practices.

  • In case some specific illegal practices are initiated by the boat, the Sea Authority would be informed immediately and could rely on the recorded data as a proof of crime.
  • An unmanned helicopter UAV, launched from a coast guard vessel could be used to identity an unrecognized boat.


Space Added Value

  • EO satellite data will be used to estimate several sea parameters and to derive meteorological information in support to conventional forecasts. Such data will support the identification of most productive regions, thus allowing a more effective catches strategy.
  • Satellite communication will be used to complement terrestrial wireless technology in offshore areas, where the latter is not effective. 
  • GNSS - The Global Positioning Systems (possibly the future Galileo system) will be used to track vessels and to collect the geo-references for catches traceability.

Product Benefits

In the medium term, FISHSAT aims to:

  • Avoid overfishing in depleted areas
  • Ease the submission of catch reports for legal purposes, thus avoiding errors and penalties
  • Collect proof of illegal practices (for use by the Sea Authority), thus giving compliant vessels a fairer chance
  • Save cost of the Sea Authority patrol boat intervention 

In the longer term, the following benefits are targeted:

  • Reduction of fishing effort per catch
  • Improve catch strategy and market strategy, to better match market demand, obtain better prices and reduce bycatch.
  • Increase of product appeal by introducing a quality mark based on traceability and sustainability data.
  • Reduction of illegal and unregulated fishing due to more effective control by the Sea Authority.

Product Features

FISHSAT is conceived as an innovative system for sustainable fishing.  FISHSAT will consist essentially in the provision of information services to both fisheries and Sea Authorities by the integration of space, airborne and terrestrial technologies (communication, remote sensing, local sensing). Its services are intended to provide Sea Authorities with a more effective law enforcing capability, while providing fisheries with a tool and service that ease their activities, reduce costs and allow for more profitable sales. An appealing Quality Mark on sustainable fishing is to be defined. The Sea Authorities are currently represented by the Italian Coast Guard, the fisheries by Lega Pesca (IT) and National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO).

The project will study user needs and requirements, design, develop and prototype a system and service, that will be validated through an in-field proof of concept involving fishing boats. A financial and non-financial viability will be performed and a roadmap towards commercial deployment, possibly via an IAP Demonstration Project, will be laid out.

Involved space technologies:

  1. Earth Observation (EO)
  2. Satellite Communication
  3. Satellite Navigation (GNSS)

Involved airborne technologies:

  1. EO sensors onboard manned aircrafts
  2. EO sensors onboard unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)

Terrestrial technologies:

  1. Wireless communication
  2. Sensors onboard boat
  3. Data input, display and reporting onboard boat
  4. Augmented Automatic Indentification System (AIS) for collision avoidance and vessel tracking
  5. WebGIS pages (Geographical Information System)
  6. Onboard catches labelling

Current Status

The project has kicked off in September 2011 and is now completed.

Prime Contractor(s)


Status Date

Updated: 27 September 2013 - Created: 15 February 2014