National Geographic Society Announces Winners of Competition to Combat Illegal Fishing: The Society’s Marine Protection Prize awards $450,000 for innovative solutions and technologies that protect and sustain fisheries in coastal communities

To help celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8th, the National Geographic Society announced the winners of the Marine Protection Prize. The winners include Paul Ferber of Marine Conservation Cambodia, Badr Idrissi of ATLAN Space and Melissa Garren of Pelagic Data Systems. Each winner will be awarded $150,000 to implement their plans.

This program has attracted some of the best and brightest proposals for using technology to better police critical ecosystems and economies. From an impressive pool of 156 teams that registered for the competition, three winners were selected.

Overfishing and illegal fishing threaten the planet’s oceans, food security and the livelihood of island nations and coastal communities. The purpose of the Marine Protection Prize is to attract a range of solutions that offer low-cost and easy-to-maintain technologies and that are relevant to the needs of local stakeholders.

From using artificial intelligence to monitoring and evaluating illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing, the three winning teams are pioneering new approaches to protect and sustain fisheries in coastal communities.

For example, Marine Conservation Cambodia, led by Paul Ferber, created a project which counters destructive and illegal fishing practices in Kep province, Cambodia by deploying anti-trawling structures and delimiting boundaries of a marine fisheries management area.

Based in Morocco, Badr Idrissi of ATLAN Space created the FishGuard pilot, which aims to identify and reduce illegal fisheries in the Republic of Seychelles. FishGuard, a partnership between ATLAN Space, Grid-Arendal and Trygg Mat Tracking, strengthens fisheries enforcement by monitoring large marine areas using fully autonomous drones guided by Artificial Intelligence, supported by expert analysis, to identify and tackle IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing operations.

Melissa Garren and her team at Pelagic Data Systems will work to alleviate all three aspects of IUU fishing in the Kui Buri district (Prachuap Khiri Khan Province), Thailand. They will use solar-powered vessel tracking technology and innovative analytics to support a fisher-driven initiative, in collaboration with local authorities, to implement sustainable fisheries management and combat IUU fishing.

To learn more about the winners and the Marine Protection Prize, please visit


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