AIMM x University of Alaska Southeast
Project’s goal: use of drones to evaluate whether dolphin calves may become separated from their mothers during tuna purse seine fishing operations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP).
AIMM in collaboration with the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), were awarded a project funded by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna (PAST). This project has the objective to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to evaluate whether dolphin calves may become separated from their mothers during tuna purse seine fishing operations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP).
The project is funded by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna (PAST).
Despite a more than 99% reduction in observed mortality in the fishery, the last abundance surveys conducted by the US National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) in 2006, suggested that ETP populations of spinner dolphin and pantropical spotted dolphin might not be recovering as quickly as might be expected, in the absence of fishery-based mortality. One of several hypothesis about this possible inhibition of recovery suggested that mother-calf separation might be a source of cryptic mortality not detected by fisheries observers on the decks of purse-seine vessels. This question and uncertainty have not been addressed convincingly in past decades.
This project will provide us with an exceptional opportunity to showcase our skills, bring new insights about this question and contribute to the improvement of the sustainability of tuna purse seine fishing operations in the ETP.
We would like to express our gratitude to our team members and our colleagues from the University of Alaska Southeast who contributed to the proposal development. Also, to the IATTC for the trust in our project and for supporting us to address this important conservation issue.
As we move forward, we will communicate further details about the project on this page and on our social media.
15 May 2023
Our President and Founder Dr. Joana Castro and Dr. Heidi Pearson from the University of Alaska Southeast are heading to California, USA, to attend the IATTC 14th Meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee.
10 July 2023
Our Researcher and Operations Manager André Cid flew to China to get a traineeship with Autel Robotics, a leading innovator in drone technology. Autel is the company that built the main drone we’ll be using in this project, the Dragonfish.
In the week that André did this traineeship he got to see the drone in action, while he went out to the sea with the Autel engineers and team. The Dragonfish drone is a cutting-edge and versatile autonomous unmanned vehicle designed for even the most difficult operations. Its main characteristics include a streamlined fish-like body.
Equipped with high-definition sensors and cameras, the Dragonfish excels in capturing precise data and visuals in harsh aquatic environments. Its aerodynamic design ensures minimal drag, maximizing energy efficiency during the flights. With remarkable endurance and agility, this drone can be a vital tool for scientific research.
We want to say thank you to the Autel team for being so welcoming!
14 August 2023
Our researchers Joana Castro and André Cid, joined by UAS researcher Heidi Pearson, are currently in Mexico and have already started this project.
This is just the beginning of the project, the plan is to go back to Mexico next October to continue the research project on board one of the fishing boats.
The team left for Mexico on the 14th of August. Since then, they have been living and working aboard one of the tuna purse seine fishing boats, alongside the fisherman and the rest of the crew. They shared that they have been getting some rough weather, but that the flying of the drones has been going steady, and they seem happy with what they have been able to collect as data so far.
After their comeback we will share more about their experience in Mexico. Stay tuned!
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