iFish North Sea - Integrated Fisheries Information System for the North Sea

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Current harvest trends and conditions are putting availability and sustainability of fisheries stocks at risk, while at the same time, fisheries are facing ever higher cost and lower yield. Introduction of limits for allowable catch have been insufficient because of challenges with regards to accuracy of control and enforcement.  Perhaps the biggest challenge in management of fisheries resources is the lack of quality data. Thus fisheries management decisions are often based on erroneous or incomplete data. The problem is compounded by the fact that the fisheries value chain operates as islands of independent communities. For example, fishing vessels typically choose the species they target and the place of landing without knowledge/insight about the supply and demand situation at other nearby ports or auction houses sometimes resulting in a glut at one port and shortage at a neighbouring port - ports that end up with more of a species than they can sell sometimes utilise the surplus for fishmeal or oil which reduces value, is wasteful and damages sustainability.

I-fish North Sea aims to provide an integrated information and communications system that will utilise a combination of satellite communications and satellite navigation to enable unified timely and accurate collection, management, and use of marine fisheries data to provide value added services to fisheries stakeholders for improved sustainability of our fast depleting fisheries resources. 

Avanti communications, OLSPS and domain expert Robert Gallagher, in close cooperation with a broad spectrum of users along the value chain, will leverage expertise and knowhow in satellite communications technology, fisheries management systems, knowledge of the industry as well as lessons learnt from other initiatives to develop the I-Fish North Sea solution.

The project objectives are to engage with the fisheries user and stakeholder community to identify the shortcomings and challenges in current operational processes as well as specify an integrated solution and associated services that will enhance sustainability of fisheries resources.

More specifically, the project will undertake the following;

  • Identify and evaluate the economic and non-economic viability, critical success factors and risks pertaining to the implementation of the proposed solution as a sustainable service platform
  • Identify the most critical elements of the integrated solution and associated services, then specify and develop a proof-of-concept to validate the feasibility of these elements
  • If the economic, technical, and non-technical elements of implementing the solution are proven to be viable, the project will provide a roadmap towards implementation of a sustainable operational service.

The project will conclude with identification of users and other stakeholders keen to engage in development of an operational service in a follow-on phase as part of a demonstration project to enable market access and promotion of the solution.

Users and their needs

The target users will include the following (involved users between brackets):

  • Fishing authorities, compliance agencies and associated scientific research organizations (Marine Scotland);
  • Fishery organizations (NESFO, NFFO);
  • Fishermen (Amity); Vessel agents;
  • Auction houses (PEFA);
  • Fish markets;
  • Food processors (Young's/Findus),
  • Wholesalers (ASDA);
  • Sea food restaurants and customers (Loch Fyne);

Authorities need more informative and more ubiquitous monitoring (e.g. the electronic logbook) to mitigate against unsustainable fishing practices.

Fisheries require a solution supporting sustainable yet more profitable operations, capable of interoperability with and optimising existing fisheries management systems. They need timely indications to the ports and markets where there is greatest demand for their catch.

Markets and customers require a more reliable, uniform supply of fresh high quality produce.

Service/ system concept

The I-Fish North Sea service concept will be based on a central message hub capable of fisheries information exchange with the various stakeholders (e.g. vessels, fishing authorities, scientists, fish markets, etc). The hub will include a database where the data will be held. Various desktop, web and mobile interfaces for access to context/location-aware fisheries services over wide area ship-to-shore telecommunication links will be provided as part of the solution. Core services will be provided by the project team, whereas the platform will be designed to provide additional third-party services. Examples of services are:

  • Support to maximise sales value,
  • Real time management of fleet and catches,
  • Virtual fish market (selling before landing),
  • Fish product traceability,
  • By-catch and endangered species avoidance,
  • Catch analysis support

Space Added Value

The space assets that will be used are:

  • Satellite communication:  For sending and receiving relevant fisheries data in near-real-time to/from the central message hub as well as for off-shore communication.
  • Satellite navigation: For geo-localising vessels and their activities to enable location based fisheries services to stakeholders.

Product Benefits

  • Optimisation of processes across the fisheries value chain resulting in reduced waste/discard, reduced environmental impact of fisheries activities, cost reduction, better prices and more uniform supply matching demand.
  • Enablement of ubiquitous availability of real-time fisheries information from varied sources into a unified/integrated system so that users and stakeholders can make informed sustainability choices and decisions.

Product Features

The I-Fish North Sea system will be based on a central hub capable of SatCom-enabled information interchange (receiving, processing and forwarding messages including GNSS-derived vessel position, market and catch data). Selected data is securely transferred between and made available for value added services for various stakeholders such as fisheries authorities and compliance agencies (compliance reports),  vessel agents (vessel arrival and departure times), auction houses, wholesalers and fish markets (stock availability and market demand information),  fishermen (event data, vessel position, catch, fishing operation, changes, area closures).

The figure below shows the I-Fish North Sea service concept including the message flow between stakeholders and some key elements/data sources such Electronic Logbooks on board fishing vessels, existing fisheries management systems, as well as the applicable space assets (communication and navigation satellites).

iFisg System Architecture

Key Issues

The objective of this feasibility study is to pave the way for a phase II demonstration project that will exploit the capabilities of space assets to develop a sustainable service to support an integrated fisheries management system across the North Sea region.  To achieve this objective, the study will define and/or evaluate the following:

  1. The shortcomings and challenges in the existing processes across the fisheries value chain?
  2. II. The user needs/requirements that will help define a service platform and associated services to address the short comings and challenges in I above.
  3. The relevant space assets that can be exploited as part of an integrated solution.
  4. The critical factors (economic, technical and non-technical) that must be addressed for a sustainable service, including appropriate engagement between authorities and stakeholders across the entire fisheries value chain to understand the issues so that sustainable tailored solutions can be promoted.
  5. The impact of the proposed I-Fish North Sea integrated solution on existing fisheries management systems and fisheries industry as whole.
  6. Any other factors that need to be considered such as engagement of additional users and stakeholders in a phase II demonstration project leading to an operational service.

Current Status

The study kicked off in May 2012 and was concluded successfully with a Final Review in May 2013. A proposal for an ARTES 20 demonstration project has been submitted to the Agency. 

The expected main benefits of the i-Fish system will be the capability to optimise the sea food value supply chain and reduce waste resulting from discard. 

The main achievements of the study are: 
• Successful demonstration of the technical viability of a seafood commercialisation platform via a Proof of Concept system that constitutes web-based on-board and onshore applications, 
• Development of a business plan to demonstrate economic viability of the system, 
• User and stakeholder engagement to ensure industry support towards development of the system into an operational service


Status Date

Updated: 03 March 2014 - Created: 15 February 2014