Better fishing with satellite technology

Nichimo is investigating meteorological satellite observation data to enable more effective operations for Japanese fishermen.

Communication devices, sensors and satellites can all play a role in providing information on critical habitats that influence marine resources. In particular, the availability of global, daily, systematic, high resolution satellite imagery is seen as a major data source for elucidating the relationship between fish populations and fishing grounds in terms of geophysical parameters and weather phenomena.

In Japan, reducing operating costs, improving productivity and bringing the best catch home are key tasks for fishermen. But these aren’t easy to achieve. The ageing of fishermen is making it harder for veterans to pass on their knowledge to the next generation, resulting in a widening gap in skills between young fishermen and those who are more experienced.

Nichimo sees partnerships with technology provides as a way of helping fishermen

Younger fishermen can also lack the necessary knowledge and experience for quickly and accurately identifying fishing grounds in order to reduce unnecessary costs and searching efforts.

Japanese marine firm Nichimo is currently seeking ways to join forces with new Japanese technology venture Ocean Eyes Co., Ltd (OceanEyes) to combine numerical models and deep learning from satellite observation data and share key information with fishermen using tablets with an app installed. The company’s goal is to enable fishermen to access up-to-date information from their fishing boats while at sea.

‘Working with venture companies like OceanEyes is key for us,’ said Takahiro Morioka of general affairs at Nichimo.

‘OceanEyes has specialists with a vast knowledge of satellite observation data but unfortunately it’s hard for them to communicate with fishermen because of a gap in their areas of expertise. This is where we come in. We have a long history of talking to fishermen about nets and other equipment, and can bring fishermen and venture companies together.’

Examining data on a tablet in the wheelhouse of a fishing vessel. Image: Nichimo

Work is now in progress at Nichimo towards improving data and communications that can be made available to fishermen. The company’s aim is to establish a system that uses satellite communications to enable timely and accurate collection, management and use of marine data that will provide fishermen with a value added service.

Nichimo is also looking to study big data platforms such as Tellus, which makes high-resolution, graphical overviews of earth observation data publicly available for free. This will offer information on sea surface temperature and height, and eventually more data on salinity, the strength and direction of tidal currents and weather information. Hopes are high that oceanographic conditions will enable more accurate predictions of good fishing grounds.

‘If we partner with a startup like OceanEyes, they will be able to calculate parameters such as salinity or water temperature based on a numerical model of ocean physics and data assimilation technology,’ Takahiro Morioka said.

‘We would then receive data that has already been analysed and share that with fishermen. Also, thanks to platforms like Tellus, space satellite startups can now overcome previous obstacles to this type of work such as high costs and the knowledge required for data analysis.’

Read more about Nichimo and OceanEyes