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National Geographic Society Announces Winners of Competition to Combat Illegal Fishing

The Society’s Marine Protection Prize awards $450,000 for innovative solutions and technologies that protect and sustain fisheries in coastal communities

To help celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8th, the National Geographic Society announced the winners of the Marine Protection Prize. The winners include Paul Ferber of Marine Conservation Cambodia, Badr Idrissi of ATLAN Space and Melissa Garren of Pelagic Data Systems. Each winner will be awarded $150,000 to implement their plans.

This program has attracted some of the best and brightest proposals for using technology to better police critical ecosystems and economies. From an impressive pool of 156 teams that registered for the competition, three winners were selected.

Overfishing and illegal fishing severely impact the ecosystem and the communities that rely on those environments. The innovations from the three winning teams have the potential to greatly increase sustainable fishing in coastal systems. These talented individuals will test and improve their ideas to push their innovations to the next level and help create more sustainable fishing practices in communities throughout the world.
Jonathan Baillie, the National Geographic Society’s chief scientist and executive vice president, science and exploration

Overfishing and illegal fishing threaten the planet’s oceans, food security and the livelihood of island nations and coastal communities. The purpose of the Marine Protection Prize is to attract a range of solutions that offer low-cost and easy-to-maintain technologies and that are relevant to the needs of local stakeholders.

From using artificial intelligence to monitoring and evaluating illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing, the three winning teams are pioneering new approaches to protect and sustain fisheries in coastal communities.

For example, Marine Conservation Cambodia, led by Paul Ferber, created a project which counters destructive and illegal fishing practices in Kep province, Cambodia by deploying anti-trawling structures and delimiting boundaries of a marine fisheries management area.

Conservation doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive; often the simplest solutions offer the most effective outcomes. Giving nature a break from anthropogenic stresses is all that is needed to allow nature to do what it does best, self-restoration. As a species, we need to reassess our priorities and remove ourselves from the consumer lifestyles we have adopted and return to a more balanced approach where we give nature the respect it so desperately needs.
Paul Ferber of Marine Conservation Cambodia

Based in Morocco, Badr Idrissi of ATLAN Space created the FishGuard pilot, which aims to identify and reduce illegal fisheries in the Republic of Seychelles. FishGuard, a partnership between ATLAN Space, Grid-Arendal and Trygg Mat Tracking, strengthens fisheries enforcement by monitoring large marine areas using fully autonomous drones guided by Artificial Intelligence, supported by expert analysis, to identify and tackle IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing operations.

To fight IUU fishing and protect the sustainability of our oceans, we have created FishGuard, a fully scalable and adaptable solution that allows institutions to monitor millions of kmwhile hugely decreasing the patrolling costs and greatly increasing the efficiency. FishGuard is a unique combination of autonomous drones guided by Artificial Intelligence, with field experience and capacity building.
Badr Idrissi of ATLAN Space

Melissa Garren and her team at Pelagic Data Systems will work to alleviate all three aspects of IUU fishing in the Kui Buri district (Prachuap Khiri Khan Province), Thailand. They will use solar-powered vessel tracking technology and innovative analytics to support a fisher-driven initiative, in collaboration with local authorities, to implement sustainable fisheries management and combat IUU fishing.

The entire team at Pelagic Data Systems is honored to be recognized by the National Geographic Society for our work putting technology in the service of humanity throughout the fisheries sector. We are thrilled for this opportunity to collaborate with our local partners on a focused project that will further refine and strengthen our solutions in support of successful, sustainable fisheries.
Melissa Garren of Pelagic Data Systems

To learn more about the winners and the Marine Protection Prize, please visit www.marineprotectionprize.com.

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a leading nonprofit that invests in bold people and transformative ideas in the fields of exploration, scientific research, storytelling and education. Through our grants and programs, we aspire to create a community of change, advancing key insights about our planet and probing some of the most pressing scientific questions of our time while ensuring that the next generation is armed with geographic knowledge and global understanding. Our goal is measurable impact: furthering exploration and educating people around the world to inspire solutions for the greater good. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.org.