Close-up of a fishing boat

OceanMind uses AI and Microsoft’s cloud to tackle illegal fishing

A cargo boat that was wanted in Asia for illegal fishing and has links to human trafficking has been intercepted by authorities thanks to artificial intelligence that runs on Microsoft’s cloud platform. 

OceanMind, based in Didcot, Oxfordshire, uses AI and satellites to identify boats around the world that may not be complying with local regulations. The company is currently tracking thousands of vesseland has the capacity to track many more. 

Through an AI for Earth grant, Microsoft previously supported OceanMind as it moved its analytics programs to the cloud, which made processing quicker and enabled the application of AI in real time. 

The AI OceanMind uses to identify illegal or unregulated fishing uses data from a range of sources, including collision-avoidance transponders from boats, radar and satellite imagery, and mobile phone signals. A machine learning algorithm developed by the company then identifies potential misconduct, such as fishing too close to shore or in areas where fishing is restricted. 

Once a situation is identified, OceanMind presents evidence to the relevant authorities and can recommend action. It also provided training for officials on how to handle such scenarios. This support enables authorities to intervene in illegal action and helps buyers keep their supply chains free from illegal products. 

OceanMind has now revealed its technology has supported the capture of “Uthaiwan” in Thai waters. The refrigerated cargo boat was first identified by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) in 2017 and has since been wanted for illegal fishing and links to human trafficking. 

Moving around the Indian Ocean, the “Uthaiwan” has repeatedly changed its name and the national flag it displayed. It has been known to use the Bolivian flag, known by authorities to be a “flag of convenience”, before sailing to Cambodia and disappearing from tracking systems. 

OceanMind used satellite imagery to find the boats last known location and successfully tracked it as it moved between ports across Vietnam and Cambodia. 

Working with Interpol, the European Commission and the Thai Fisheries Monitoring Centre (FMC), OceanMind discovered the boat was entering Thai waters. Once the FMC confirmed the vessel had not requested to be in that area, the Thai Navy intercepted the boat, while supported by real-time tracking from OceanMind and the FMC. 

The owners and crew of the “Uthaiwan” are now facing an investigation for breaking the law in Thailand and other countries. 

The Royal Thai Government stated that the “success of this operation would be much less likely without the full cooperation of all parties”.