Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Every fish counts: How Northern Territory Fisheries are putting AI to work in Darwin Harbour

Every fish counts: How Northern Territory Fisheries are putting AI to work in Darwin Harbour

There’s a number of shark species
that have been listed as threatened
or critically endangered. So, it’s really important
that we’re able to protect not
just our marine environment, but the estuaries and freshwater
systems that these species inhabit. It’s probably the best
harbour in Australia. It’s really pristine, it’s got
more coral species than they
do on the Great Barrier Reef and that’s why we need research
projects that can ID species accurately, to be able to get enough information
so that we can accurately
manage species and stocks. Conservation is at the
heart of what we do and I feel very privileged and
lucky to have the job I have. One of our biggest challenges is
dealing with saltwater crocodiles. In parts of the Northern
Territory we’ve got some of the
largest populations in the world and we catch over 300 per
year in Darwin Harbour. We simply can’t dive into the water to go and explore and to count and
identify fish or marine species. As a result, we’ve had to
look at alternative methods, one of those being the
use of underwater video. The problem we had was
simply identifying fish in the video because we couldn’t
always see them very well. So the work we’re doing
with AI and machine learning
is really important to us. The water is quite green. Fish
move, so they change shape. They have different behaviours. They blend in with the reef, they
blend in with each other, they
blend in with the background. We’ve created an approach to detect
the shape of the fish in water and to count the number of fish and
the different types of fish in water. Once we had that first solution that could
positively ID a fish and not identify it as a hot dog or an umbrella or
anything else, we really felt we were on to something
and then from there it was really a matter of then finding
the right toolset to be able to improve and optimise our solution. There is hundreds of hours
and terabytes of footage that needs to be counted and quantified.
We’ve taken that activity and reduced it essentially to minutes, which enables
Fisheries to focus on the research
and the analysis and the trends, which inform policy, rather
than focusing on watching video. It is an incredibly
exciting project because it has global applicability
to quantifying fish stock. Scientists and communicators,
politicians and everyone need to be thinking about
marine conservation and how to
apply technology to aid that. If you’re not thinking it and
you’re not looking after it,
it will disappear really quick. I’m proud of the team that
we’re a part of and what we’re
doing in the Northern Territory. We’re a really small team
in a really remote place, so to be able to do this quality
work is something pretty special. I wouldn’t want to be any other place.

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