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The University of Southampton

Scientists unveil plans for underwater AI bot that detects illegal fishing

Published: 18 July 2023
AI bot to tackle illegal fishing
Southampton scientists begin work on AI bot to tackle illegal fishing

Scientists have started work on a new underwater artificial intelligence bot which can detect activities that harm the ocean environment.

Aqua, will be used to spot illegal fishing and protect marine mammals during offshore wind farm construction.

More than £700,000 was awarded by Innovate UK for the AI system, codenamed MARLIN, which uses underwater sensors to remotely monitor animal, human and environmental activity anywhere in the ocean before transmitting data back in real time.

Professor of Statistical Signal Processing Paul White, from the University of Southampton, said: "Using the power of artificial intelligence to monitor sound in the underwater world, combined with the ability to rapidly relay information ashore, will enable us to provide tools to protect fragile marine ecosystems and detect a range of illegal activities."

Large vessels are typically used for ocean monitoring missions – but the new MARLIN system could reduce the time ships are at sea, potentially cutting CO2 emissions by up to 75 per cent.

Dr Ryan Mowat, Research Director at RS Aqua, added: “This technology will revolutionise how we scientifically monitor our ocean environment. Currently we leave instruments underwater for months at a time and recover them before accessing their data.

“MARLIN will get that data to the internet in real time, and its implications are huge. It will help ensure that offshore construction is sensitive to marine mammal activity and will enable the monitoring of marine protected areas through the real time recognition of illegal fishing activity.”

Find out more at the MARLIN project at

Or read more about innovations from the University of Southampton which are addressing maritime challenges at

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