Runion is the second largest producer of Patagonian toothfish behind Chile. So the toothfish is very important to it, earning in the region of 40 to 60 million euros for its economy annually. However in recent years the toothfish has fallen prey to illegal uncontrolled fishing. It is estimated that pirate vessels have been fishing up to 26 000 tonnes a year nearly four times the legal quota.
In the last few years authorities have introduced measures to limit illegal fishing in the EEZ, defend France's economic interests, protect ecosystems and stamp French sovereignty on their territorial waters. A surveillance system using French naval vessels has achieved some success, however the number of vessels fishing illegally continued to rise, and they proved adept at slipping through the surveillance net.
The EEZ totals nearby one million square kilometres of ocean too great an area for naval vessels to police effectively. So the French maritime authority turned to satellite surveillance employing ESA's Envisat satellite in conjunction with Canada's Radarsat-1.
The radar sensors aboard these spacecraft can monitor the region during both day and night and in all weathers, including cloudy conditions. The metal corners of ships make good radar reflectors, sending back distinctive signal echoes. Using the two spacecraft together means updated images become available daily, downlinked to a dedicated ground station located on Kerguelen Island.
"Kergulen is a remote and inaccessible place, but it has the advantage of being at the centre of the area we want to survey," explained Philippe Schwab, Technical director of CLS. "New
Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency