Back in 2017, an international team of scientists discovered that nearly 80% of albatrosses and other large seabirds are chasing fishing boats in hopes of getting a "free lunch." As a result, the researchers offered a good idea: why not use this feature of bird behavior in the interests of protecting nature?
To turn albatrosses into a marine patrol, scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Liverpool have assembled small solar-powered blocks that can be attached to the backs of these seabirds. There are three antennas inside the unit: the first is a GPS for fixing the location, the second is for detecting ship radars, and the third is for transmitting data to the base.
The unusual patrol already includes 169 birds, which clearly showed how they can be used to solve the important problem of combating poaching. As you know, all registered fishing vessels are required by law to have an automated identification system (AIS) enabled, which reports their nationality, location and route. The problem is that ship owners (for obvious reasons) do not always activate it.
Map of fishing vessels found by albatrosses: green dots with AIS on, red dots with off
On the other hand, radar systems are always necessary to prevent collisions with other vessels - it is the switched off radar that can be detected by the bird patrol.
Seabirds are capable of detecting fishing vessels up to 30 km away, allowing devices on their backs to inform scientists of the vessel's location. In the future, by comparing the information received with the available database and the included AIS systems, it can be concluded that the fishing operation is legal / illegal.
Currently, an aerial albatross patrol organized by scientists has been monitoring a large area of the Southern Ocean for six months, while detecting 353 vessels, about a third of which had AIS disabled.