MRIC Partners with SSC, UNDP, and University of Surrey to Launch Project NEREUS

Mauritius Research and Innovation Council (MRIC) is partnering with the Surrey Space Center (SSC), University of Surrey, UK, and supported by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Ocean Innovation Challenge, on the project, NEREUS – A Space-Based Maritime Surveillance System for Fisheries Monitoring and Anomaly Detection.

In 2022, the UNDP announced the second cohort of Ocean Innovators selected globally for their suggested solutions to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, with particular emphasis on sustainable fisheries and blue economy threatened by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The NEREUS project, proposed by the SSC in collaboration with the MRIC, was selected as one of the Ocean Innovators in June 2022.

The Republic of Mauritius has a vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.4 million square kilometres. The Blue Economy represents 15% of the country’s GDP, with fishing as a major contributor. However, the economy is threatened by IUU fishing. Thus, monitoring maritime activity is of utmost priority for the Republic of Mauritius and the right data is needed to build marine surveillance solutions that offer accurate, timely, and actionable insights.

The NEREUS project is utilising remote sensing imagery and data such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Automatic Identification System (AIS), obtained from a vast network of collaborators and similar contributing partners, including the UK Space Agency, JAXA, Capella Space, Satellite VU and the Ministry of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping of the Republic of Mauritius. 

The data will be refined using machine learning methods to procure a near-real-time footprint of fishing vessels adopting unusual behaviour in the EEZ. The application will also provide ways of classifying fishing vessels and including anomaly detection techniques based on machine learning with characteristics of automation and high scalability globally.

 Objectives of NEREUS
  1. Quantify the extent of legal and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Mauritius EEZ and MPAs and evaluate its economic impact;
  2. Improve support to the local government in stopping IUU activities in the EEZ and prosecuting responsible parties;
  3. Support the restoration of marine life and fish stocks in the Mauritius EEZ; and
  4. Develop an understanding and support for the economic recovery from fishery practices in Mauritius.

In addition, a workshop will be organised to solicit local stakeholders’ engagement on 16 January 2023. These stakeholders include representatives of the Ministry of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation, the Ministry of Blue Economy, public and private sector fisheries and shipping stakeholders, academia, and Officers of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, amongst others.

The results of this innovative prediction tool will be developed and shared with the Mauritian Authorities to synthesise existing measures for combating IUU in Mauritian territorial waters.

For more information regarding the project, kindly check here.


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