New technology detects blast fishing up to 25km away

Blast fishing can seriously threaten Sabah’s marine ecosystem as the shockwave indiscriminately kills marine life while destroying coral.

KOTA KINABALU: A new groundbreaking technology to detect blast fishing activities in real time is showing promise in efforts to protect Sabah’s marine life.

A Hong Kong based non-governmental organisation Stop Fish Bombing (SFB) helped coordinate the successful pilot test in close collaboration with the state Fisheries Department and Sabah Parks to detect underwater explosions from up to 25km away and display its GPS coordinates accurately within 20m on a web page map within a few seconds.

The detection system is powered by ShotSpotter (SST), a Silicon Valley tech company that has successfully developed and deployed a system for real-time location of gunshots now used in 90 cities across the United States.

The SFB was formed in 2015 as a partnership between ShotSpotter; Scubazoo, a media company based in Kota Kinabalu and Teng Hoi, an NGO based in Hong Kong which carried out research into the sounds generated by fish bombs underwater in 2004.

Scubazoo chief executive officer Simon Christopher said the new system would be able to stop fish blasting while at the same time provide an alternative and more sustainable way to obtain food from the sea.

Confiscated home made bombs used for blast fishing.
Confiscated home made bombs used for blast fishing.

“Sabah is set to become a beacon of hope for the rest of the world,’’ he said, adding that there were looking at getting companies to assist in placing the detectors at key marine parks in Sabah.

Both Sabah Fisheries Department director Datuk Rayner Stuel Galid and Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais were impressed with the pilot test conducted in Sepanggar waters off the city here.

“This system will enable us to send enforcement to arrest fish bombers straight away,” Galid said, while Jamili added the new technology promises “potential answers” towards more effective conservation.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who was briefed on the project, said the technology shows promise in being able to solve the blast fish problem.

“This is our legacy for the next generations – keeping the coral reefs healthy.’’

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