Australia piloting Bluebottle monitoring vessels for IUU surveillance

Published on
February 8, 2023
Bluebottles being put in to the water

In order to combat increasing instances of illegal fishing in Australian waters, the Australian government is piloting unmanned vessels capable of long-distance marine patrols.

The vessels, known as Bluebottles, were developed by Randwick, Australia-based Ocius Technologies, according to the Australian Ministry of Defense, which said the solar-, wind-, and wave-powered vessels are being tested off the west coast of Australia.

“[They are] on-water surveillance capability, with the flexibility to be readily maneuvered to respond to emerging surveillance requirements or tasks,” it announced in November 2022.

The ministry said the vessels had been used to provide 24-7 water surveillance ofaround remote islands off north Western Australia, searching for foreign fishing vessels engaged in illegal fishing.

“In addition to persistent surveillance, we were able to use the Bluebottles to conduct more-specific reconnaissance tasks, such as beach landing site reconnaissance and avenues of approach to specific islands in advance of the ground force,” said Maritime Border Command (MBC) Liaison Officer to Rotation 7 Marjor Alexander Brent. “By controlling the Bluebottles remotely, the ground force was free to be able to move independently of the USVs (uncrewed surveillance vessels) and focus on other tasks, such as onshore reconnaissance and patrolling, while still benefiting from what the Bluebottles collected.”

According to ABC Australia, the trial is expected to finish later this month.

Parks Australia said the Bluebottles provide a better understanding of the activity in the country’s national park zones of Australian marine parks, where fishing is prohibited.

The move comes amid an increase in illegal fishing activity in Australia's exclusive economic zone. Most recently, in November 2022, eight crew members onboard two vessels from Indonesia were convicted in the Darwin Local Court for fishing illegally in Australia's domestic waters off the north coast of Western Australia. They were each fined USD 16,844 (EUR 15,715, AUS 24,300), according to a press release issued by the Australian government.

“My message to those trying to exploit Australia's maritime domain is clear: we are actively patrolling these waters and you will be caught. Do not risk losing your boat or your economic livelihood," MBC Commander Rear Admiral Justin Jones said.

Photo courtesy of Parks Australia

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