Ocean robotics: a sustainable mechanism towards marine resource management in the 21st century
Dr Seb Swart
Swart is a senior scientist in the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observatory programme at the CSIR. He completed his PhD in 2009 in physical oceanography at the University of Cape Town (with extensive collaboration with the University of Brittany, France). Swart, an experienced seagoing oceanographer, has been actively involved in Southern Ocean research since 2004. He heads the South African Marine Engineering and Robotics Centre and is also the physics vice-chair of the international Southern Ocean Observing System.
About the talk: South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) covers over 1.5 million km2 and comprises the remote waters around the Prince Edward Islands in the Southern Ocean. The benefits of an EEZ come with the responsibility of managing its resources, one of which is commercial fish stocks. These are currently assessed via acoustic surveys using manned survey vessels, which are extremely expensive to undertake.
The CSIR’s autonomous ocean robotics are able to venture in remote oceans for months at a time – unmanned – while transmitting data in real-time via satellite communications. The fisheries acoustic and environmental data being collected on a more continuous basis and over larger spatial domains by the CSIR’s gliders are shown to be of comparable quality to that collected by ship. The gliders can dramatically improve the temporal and spatial coverage of fish stock assessments, which will allow for fisheries managers to set quotas that improve yields and reduce the probability of overfishing. The enhanced observational capabilities enable scientists to monitor the response of fish stocks to environmental variability and climate change that is already being seen to drive long-term change in our fish stocks.
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