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Spain: Galician coast guard uses FLIR thermal cameras to fight illegal fishing

Christian Fernsby |
Fishing, shellfish harvesting, and marine aquaculture mainly mussel farming in inshore waters are important economic activities in Galicia northwest of Spain.

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Topics: SPAIN    GALICIAN   

Local public authorities strictly control these activities to prevent exploitation, fish stock depletion and resulting economical losses.

They are fighting a constant battle against this unfair and illegal competition that affects thousands of professionals who make a living from the fishing and seafood industry.

Illegal fishing and poaching of seafood resources also has an enormous impact on the environment and food safety; especially during periods of toxic algal bloom (red tides), when fishing conditions are hazardous for public health.

The detection of unauthorized fishing and shellfish harvesting is of paramount importance for the Galician authorities.

However, monitoring and protecting all of Galicia’s inshore and offshore fisheries, shellfish harvesting areas, and marine aquaculture farms is a challenging task.

Galicia has 1,200 km of coastline.

Its protection involves the surveillance of activity in 122 ports, including around 5,000 fishing boats, 400 beaches dedicated to shellfish harvesting, and 47 mussel aquaculture farms, with a total of more than 3,000 bateas (floating mussel farms).

Moreover, most illegal activity takes place at night, making it extra difficult for law enforcers to detect any type of vessel.

The Galician climate does not help either.

With an average of 128 days per year of rain, visibility conditions are usually not ideal for surveillance operations.

Manned surveillance patrols can only do so much; they are hindered by the climate and visibility conditions, making it impossible (from a practical and financial standpoint) for coast guards to cover the entire Galician coastline.

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