Stop Fish Bombing
Stop Fish Bombing is a non-governmental organisation that aims to eradicate fish bombing, a destructive and illegal fishing practice that destroys coral reefs and surrounding marine life, using underwater detection technology.
The organization was formed in 2015 as a partnership between Teng Hoi; Shotspotter, a commercial gunshot detection system company in Silicon Valley; and Scubazoo, a media company based in Kota Kinabalu. Learn more
By applying the ShotSpotter technology to underwater shock-waves, we have developed a system that detects explosions beneath water surface from a distance of up to 25 kilometers away. Within four to ten seconds, the location of the blast can be accurately pinpointed using global positioning system within a 20m margin. This real time position information provides solid evidence for convictions. Working together with governments and law enforcement, we can greatly improve operational efficiency of enforcement activities and legal processes. Such credible and affordable means should suppress and curb the destruction of unconstrained fish bombing.
In November 2016, we have successfully tested a prototype in Sabah with the support of Sabah Parks and Sabah Fisheries Department. Negotiations are ongoing to find a solution that will enable the development of the technology, related systems of enforcement and alternative income programs for fishermen that will turn the tide of this most destructive of fishing techniques. Following a successful proof of concept, we are working closely with Sabah Parks to place a pilot detection system in Tun Mustapha Park, a newly gazetted million-hectare marine protected area at the northern tip of Borneo. We hope to involve industry players such as dive operators and relevant government bodies to help fund the new technology.
- Work with governments and law enforcement: new evidence, new techniques, and new law.
- Grow a sensor network and then expand globally.
- Invest in alternative incomes for blast fishermen.
- Generate positive news story from Scubazoo TV productions, citizen science and education, driving sustainable aquaculture, and underwater camera service for tourists.
Published Articles on the Marine Pollution Bulletin
Teng Hoi’s pioneering research in the early 2000s confirmed that underwater explosions could be readily detected using hydrophones, and that sources of underwater noise could be filtered out. The research showed that there was a clear way forward to adapt Shotspotter’s infrastructure and systems to detect fish bombs using hydrophones.
We published two papers in 2003 and 2004 concerning the characterization of the acoustic signature of fish bombs and detailing the pilot of a direction-sensitive automated blast detection system, respectively.
WOODMAN, WILSON ET AL. (2003): ACOUSTIC CHARACTERISTICS OF FISH BOMBING: POTENTIAL TO DEVELOP AN AUTOMATED BLAST DETECTOR.
WOODMAN, WILSON ET AL. (2004): A DIRECTION-SENSITIVE UNDERWATER BLAST DETECTOR AND ITS APPLICATION FOR MANAGING BLAST FISHING.
In 2018, we published an updated paper presenting findings from Sabah, Malaysia that show how an underwater acoustic system based on a mature gunshot location technology can readily detect blast fishing and the scalability of this system.
Fish Bombing FAQ
In more peaceful times local fishermen learnt how to make their own explosives, or in some cases made use of caches of ordinance from military conflicts. Initially, the fishermen would target shallow coral reef areas, causing widespread damage to the coral structures that support the reef fish. As a consequence, fish populations rapidly declined in many areas and to maintain their catch fishermen moved on to fresh areas, further and further from their home villages.
Examples of significant blasting activity in recent times include the Spratleys, far offshore in the South China Sea and Dong Sha Atoll to the north. Large regions of once productive coral reefs have been decimated by the migration of blast fishing and although most countries have passed laws to prohibit it, the practice continues largely unchecked.
Dynamite fishing has a profound impact on coral recruitment, as blasts remove all viable seed populations of corals. Scientists have stated that it may take coral reefs many decades to recover from the impacts of dynamite fishing, and some may never recover. The resulting decline in fish catch that most of coastal residents are currently experiencing is the result of the destruction of coral reefs, the most productive ecosystem in nearshore waters.
Apart from environmental damage, the practice has resulted in several deaths and some fishers losing their limbs.
Coral reefs form the basis of coastal and marine tourism, a valuable national income sector. Coral reefs around the globe provide services valued between US$172-375 billion annually. Reefs must be protected for economic sustainability.
Whilst it is sometimes the case that artisinal fishermen are driven to such destructive techniques through poverty, much blast fishing activity is undertaken for profit. Even if the economy of coastal regions could be improved by governments or other agencies, there is a requirement for more effective enforcement of the law.
The technology developed by Stop Fish bombing is a powerful tool in the fight against fish blasters.
Stop Fish Bombing in the Media
Illegal Blast Fishing Could Be Stopped Thanks to Breakthrough Technology – Chromatography Today, 17 February 2016.
Fish bombing destroys reefs all over the world. At last there’s a way to stop it – The Coral Triangle, 10 February 2016.
New technology detects blast fishing up to 25km away – The Star, 08 February 2016, Muguntan Vanar.
Conservation group proposes new tech to eradicate fish bombing in Sabah – Malay Mail Online, 04 February 2016, Julia Chan.
HKUST technology enables the world’s first automated fish blast detection system – HKUST, 16 March 2007.
Depths of destruction – South China Morning Post, 30 January 2007, Barclay Crawford.
Alternative Income Program
Stop Fish Bombing is in the process of developing an alternative income program for blast fishermen to transition to sustainable shrimp aquaculture at our partner farm. While fishermen can benefit from a more stable livelihood, we aim to farm other seafood products besides shrimp to actively support traceable organic seafood production. We encourage fishermen to put an end to the destructive practice of fish bombing and work with us in the protection of global resources.
As it is so difficult to trace, it is likely that some of the bombed fish in Sabah end up as aquaculture feed. In order to completely eliminate fish bombing, Teng Hoi has joined efforts with Innawater and a local shrimp farm in Karambunai to address problems of the shrimp industry, which include unsustainable feed, disease, and effluent pollution. We have been conducting research for producing high protein shrimp feed that does not have any trace of bombed fish or wild fish. Other issues that have been crippling the local Sabah shrimp industry have been tackled using Innawater technology. Our shrimp farm will become truly sustainable in the near future and produce high quality shrimp with the help of transitioned blast fishermen.
Our goal is to not only eliminate fish bombing, but to also improve living conditions for fishermen and provide a safe and healthy seafood alternative for consumers.