Each year the Ocean Awards, held in partnership with BOAT International, celebrates the latest developments in marine technology with the Innovation Award. Nominees for the award must have successfully developed or implemented a product, service or process that has had – or is likely to have – a positive impact on the health of the marine environment. Our panel of judges whittled the nominated innovations down to just five finalists.
Global Fishing Watch – Marine Manager
Global Fishing Watch Marine Manager is a free, online portal designed for marine managers and other stakeholders to support the design, management and monitoring of existing and new MPAs (marine protected areas). Launched in 2021, the portal offers access to comprehensive and interactive environmental datasets that allow stakeholders to understand the impact of established or new protected areas, monitor the quality and efficiency of the protected areas and better inform decision-making.
Global Fishing Watch Marine Manager currently monitors 1.5 million square kilometres of ocean and supports 21 human activity, biological and oceanographic datasets, including zonations, biodiversity, bathymetry, currents, sea surface temperature, salinity and human activities such as fishing operations. Work is underway to improve the number of data layers, which will eventually include the mapping of biodiversity hotspots, migratory connectivity and underwater noise layers.
Whale Seeker – Mobius
Mobius by Whale Seeker uses artificial intelligence to detect marine mammals using aerial images. Aerial imaging is a powerful tool for wildlife management and can provide essential data for mitigating impact and collisions along maritime transport routes. This data is traditionally processed manually by human analysts, which is expensive, time-consuming and inconsistent.
Mobius is the first tool of its kind tailored to whale detection, reducing analysis time by 80 per cent while improving accuracy. It uses artificial intelligence to create fast, accurate and user-friendly whale detection solutions that empower decision-makers in maritime industries to develop more sustainable business practices. This could relate to decisions on the development of marine protected areas, dynamically managing shipping lanes and mitigating impacts of offshore development. Developed as a working prototype in 2020, Mobius is now used to help track whale populations near industrial developments in the Canadian Arctic but is the basis for further innovations such as automated real-time whale detection and monitoring from satellite imagery.
Accurate ocean topography is vital for navigation, telecommunications, offshore energy, and understanding weather and climate, but only 21 per cent of the ocean has been mapped using modern technology. Traditional mapping methods utilise crewed vessels that are expensive, have a large carbon footprint and the engines generate noise which in turn degrades the mapping image. As a solution, Saildrone Inc. created a 72-foot uncrewed surface vehicle (USV).
Named, Saildrone Surveyor, the vessel has been designed by Richard Jenkins and built in California. It is propelled primarily by wind and harvests renewable energy to power onboard sensors. It is the only USV capable of mapping remote areas of the ocean without local support and has already performed several long-endurance missions. The Surveyor’s first mission was a 2,250 nautical mile voyage from San Francisco to Honolulu, during which the vessel mapped over 1000 square miles of previously unmapped seabed that resulted in the discovery of an 800-mile seamount off the coast of California. Saildrone’s goal is to map the entire ocean by 2030 in line with the Seabed 2030 Project.
Swiss Ocean Tech – Anchor Guardian
Dragging anchors pose a significant threat to fragile marine ecosystems. Despite advanced naval navigation equipment, it isn’t possible today for the crew to know if, by how much and how fast, the anchor is dragging in real-time. AnchorGuardian offers a new dimension of safety at sea by minimising the risk of anchor dragging, providing predictions and immediate alarms. The technology monitors the movement and position of a ship’s anchor, supports the crew while laying and lifting the anchor with relevant intelligence and provides immediate, fail-safe alarms with sub-meter accuracy.
Anchor dragging has been reported as the root cause of many oil spills. Marine ecosystems suffer the brunt of these accidents, as oil spills can cause serious harm to marine birds, turtles, fish, shellfish and fur-bearing mammals. As well as minimising the risk of anchor dragging, AnchorGuardian can also identify the sediment type below the anchor before it is dropped. This can make the crew aware of fragile marine habitats below them, such as seagrass or coral reef, and allow the crew to relocate away from these habitats.
Kakani Katija – FathomNet
FathomNet is an open-source image database developed by Hawaiian bioengineer Kakani Katija for the purpose of understanding the ocean and its inhabitants by using sophisticated machine learning. The public platform utilises existing data to train, test and validate state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to understand and identify marine life. With numerous high-resolution, multi-camera video feeds being deployed for scientific observation, there is a rapid deluge of visual data that outpaces researchers’ abilities to process and analyse them.
FathomNet was designed to address this knowledge and resource gap by allowing users to input unlabelled image sets and apply candidate algorithms, resulting in labelled image sets and further algorithm refinement. The scale and scope of the project will significantly advance observations of biology in the ocean at previously unachievable scales. The impact of this project can be measured by the high-quality contributions in the project so far, as well as the AI models that have been shared as part of the FathomNet initiative.