How new tech is combating Torres Strait drug runners

LAW enforcement is stepping up the fight against illegal marine activity in the Torres Strait through the roll out of new covert technology specifically developed by the CSIRO.

New underwater hydrophone technology has been deployed by Maritime Border Command, a multiagency body within the Australian Border Force.

Development and installation of the technology has been undertaken in partnership with the CSIRO.

Five hydrophones have been dropped to the ocean floor by the ABF Storm Bay in strategic locations across the region.

Australian Border Force officers install hydrophone equipment in the Torres Strait. Picture: ABF
Australian Border Force officers install hydrophone equipment in the Torres Strait. Picture: ABF

 

A hydrophone is an underwater microphone that can be used in real-time to listen to vessel traffic and behaviour to assist in detecting activity such as illegal fishing and the movements of vessels involved in other illicit activities. The hydrophone is attached to a larger mooring device and submerged underwater so it remains completely unseen.

It's understood people smugglers, drug runners and breaches of COVID-19 regulations in regard to the suspension of the Torres Strait Treaty with Papua New Guinea could also be detected.

Rear Admiral and commander of the MBC unit Lee Goddard said the pivotal technology would be vital in protecting Australia's maritime domain.

Officers have dropped hydrophones in strategic locations across the region. Picture: ABF
Officers have dropped hydrophones in strategic locations across the region. Picture: ABF

"Protecting Australia's unique and rich maritime domain is one of the MBC's core priorities. With illegal foreign fishing posing threats to sustainable fisheries management around the world, we are determined to do even more to protect Australia from this criminal activity," he said.

"(Hydrophone information) allows us to deploy resources quickly, and exactly where they are needed. Our message is do not even try - we will catch you and you will face the full force of the law when we do."

Principal research scientist from CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere Dr Chris Wilcox said low-cost hardware paired with artificial intelligence could make a real difference in the fight against illegal fishing and other border threats.

"The addition of innovative, new tools and technology will be vital to enhancing our presence and assist in the detection of illegal fishing activities," he said.

Originally published as How new tech is combating Torres Strait drug runners

A hydrophone being submerged with the aid of two concrete blocks. Picture: ABF
A hydrophone being submerged with the aid of two concrete blocks. Picture: ABF


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