Fishing is a challenging industry to earn a living from. There are licenses to obtain, regulations to uphold, fishing seasons to follow, dwindling schools to hunt down, fierce competition, fluctuating markets, and illegal fishing to contend with. Not to mention the danger of a life spent on water, ever subject to her turbulent seas and moody weather. But, the world loves to eat fish, making it a hot international commodity. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that over 3 billion people eat fish regularly. Communities of all sizes, locations, and development depend on fish and the fishing industry nutritionally and economically. In 2016 the FAO reported that an estimated 56.6 million people worldwide work in fishing industries – both fish farming and open water fishing – with 36% of those employed full time. Estimated at 4.6 million in 2014, that’s a lot of fishing boats on the water.
The IMO enforces Class A AIS on most ships weighing upwards of 300 gross tonnage. Smaller vessels, like most fishing boats, tend to use Class B AIS, if anything at all, because it is affordable. Class B AIS signals aren’t well received from space, providing a weaker signal in a shortened geographical locale with far less tracking information. As their livelihood, and often families and community at large, rely on fishing to survive, fishermen will go out onto the water no matter what, taking a chance on weather reports because the loss of a day’s haul can be devastating. It doesn’t take long for a small boat to travel out of range from shore communication, and it doesn’t take much for one to be knocked completely off course, making it extremely difficult for search and rescue operations to succeed. Class B AIS also makes illegal fishing easier because it’s simple to fly under the radar. Class A AIS gives authorities insights on vessels that are off course –intentionally or not – allowing for immediate communication and swift action.
exactTrax by exactEarth is maritime satellite tracking designed specifically for increased safety, security, and sustainability of the small-boat fishing industry. Portable, thermos-sized transponders powered by battery, and software accessible from any web browser keeps overhead low while boosting signal transmission to something comparable to Class A AIS. In 2016 project OASIS conducted a successful exactTrax trial in South Africa with 50 local fishing boats. OASIS is a partnership with exactEarth Europe Ltd., South African Marine Safety Authority (SAMSA), Marine Data Solutions Ltd. (MDSOL), and SRT Marine Technology Limited (SRT). Local fishing boat owners and operators installed the transponders themselves, further demonstrating practicality. Vessels participating in OASIS included 8-metre (approx. 26-foot) fishing boats with in-board engines, 5-metre (approx. 16-foot) ski fishing boats with out-board motors, and 3-metre (approx. 10-foot) boats with out-board motors. Once the trial was completed, SAMSA was able to conclude 3 key things:
- exactTrax is simple to install
- exactTrax can operate seamlessly in any part of its waters, coastal or wide-ocean
- exactTrax can provide tracking data that can be easily integrated into SAMSA’s existing monitoring systems
As of June 1, 2017 exactTrax technology is compatible with transponders built by any manufacturer to increase accessibility to the safety and security provided by AIS. With exactTrax, we can provide reliable tracking services for the millions of fishing boats around the world at once.