AIS and Artisanal Fishers

See AIS at work in the community

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) has stated that

Fishing at sea is probably the most dangerous occupation in the world. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 24 000 fatalities occur worldwide per year in capture fisheries

The UN FAO went as far as to say that

the consequences of loss of life fall heavily on the dependants. In many developing countries, these consequences can be devastating. Widows often have a low social standing, and where there is no welfare state to support families and no alternative source of income, widows and their children may face destitution

In addition to the safety and socio-economic consequences of loss of life among fishers, the environmental impact of fishing and by-catch is high. This is not limited to large-scale trawlers but also includes an almost innumerable volume of small vessels, under 15m in length, engaged in fishing-related activities, both legal and illegal (aka IUU).

In this section, we will briefly concentrate on the improvements to safety that is made possible through the use of AIS (for security, environmental and economic improvements using AIS, see previous sections including AIS for MCS, and AIS for MPAs).

Traditional satellite-based methods for fishing vessel tracking has not always been accessible to fishers around the world. Either the equipment has been prohibitively expensive, or the subscription data costs have been too high.

Now an AIS transponder (especially Class B) can be installed on almost any vessel size, enabling it to be tracked, monitored, and located in the event of an incident. These AIS transponders can be paid for in several ways:


The installation and maintenance of an AIS networks can be relatively simple, i.e. an installation in a subsistence fishing community / co-operative in a developing country. Hardwearing low cost PC’s can operate a version of our MariWeb™ AIS network management software, even when there is no local internet connection (known as a stand-alone SeaTraq Shore Station).

AIS equipped vessels that launch, operate and return to the same area of interest can be monitored upward of 30 / 40 NM from shore based AIS infrastructure (most subsistence / artisanal / commercial fishers operate well within this range of the coast, due to size of vessel, motor type and fuel supply)

Vessels can broadcast AIS Safety Related Messages (SRM) such as “mayday”, “assistance required”, “piracy alert”, “engine failure”, “fuel required”, “tow required”, among many other bespoke options.

Vessels that do not return to base within a defined time frame can evoke alerts on the shore system, so that action can be taken by local assets. Once in range, Search and Rescue assets (including fixed / rotary wing) equipped with AIS can locate the missing vessel’s latest / last ID and positional transmission and co-ordinate their actions accordingly.