The satellite company HawkEye 360 has signed a deal with Australia and other nations of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency to help combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the South Pacific.

The Virginia-based satellite analytics company operates a constellation of 21 low earth orbit satellites that detect, geolocate, and characterize a variety of radio frequency signals used for navigation and communication. “AIS (Automatic Identification System) is the standard for monitoring,” says Adam Bennett, vice president of marketing at HawkEye 360. “But when a vessel goes dark, that’s where our system becomes useful. We provide other means to monitor a vessel in your territorial waters.”

 With most of its satellites coming online since 2021, HawkEye 360 is still ramping up. “We own all our infrastructure. We control everything in our system, from the satellites to the data processing and algorithms. This gives us high higher order of analytics that we combine with other data sources, such as AIS and vessel watch lists, to put it in context. Then we look where we can fill in the information gaps,” says Bennett. Putting various pieces of the vessel traffic puzzle together, HawkEye 360 helps other agencies focus on certain vessels. “Then they can determine when they need to send out a patrol vessel or take some other action.”

Bennet notes that when a vessel shuts down its AIS, HawkEye 360 often reads that as an indication that something illegal might be happening.

“We’re working with machine learning for our algorithms to enable us to distinguish between the vessels based on things like their radar frequencies, or other industrial equipment of interest. This will improve our ability to track them.” With its 21 satellites, HawkEye 360 can geolocate vessels every hour. “But we have 6 more launching,” says Bennett. “Those will enable us to collect data as often as every half hour if the client wants that level of detail.”

Understandably, HawkEye 360 has extensive ties to the United States national security community. “We see IUU fishing as an important element of national security in a broader sense,” says Bennett. “If you have visibility of these vessels, you can monitor of activities of concern.”

As technology like that being developed by Hawkeye 360 becomes ever more sophisticated, vessels engaged in IUU fishing will have nowhere to hide.

Have you listened to this article via the audio player above?

If so, send us your feedback around what we can do to improve this feature or further develop it. If not, check it out and let us know what you think via email or on social media.

Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

Join the Conversation