Developing an Open Source Methodology for the Remote Monitoring of Marine Protected Areas with Satellites, Machine Learning, and AIS for the Field of Maritime Archaeology

Many maritime archaeological sites face threats due to unauthorised salvage, treasure hunting, and souvenir collecting. The Battle of the Egadi Islands (241 BC) is the only known ancient naval battlefield and the site was discovered following a Carabinieri raid recovering artefacts. A marine protected area (MPA) was created to preserve the site, but MPAs remain susceptible to heritage crime due to challenges with traditional monitoring methods. Advances in satellite imagery, AIS, and machine learning offer potential for the protection of in situ cultural heritage, advancing the aims of the 2001 UNESCO Convention. Partnering with MAST and OceanMind, through the Maritime Observatory partnership, the global leader in marine monitoring, this project will apply cutting-edge methods and technology to the Egadi MPA to develop a capacity-building white paper for the Honor Frost Foundation (HFF) website that will aid researchers and heritage managers in the HFF region.

OceanMind is a not-for-profit organization based in the UK with a mission to deliver actionable insights into human activity at sea. We work confidentially in partnership with governments, NGOs and businesses, providing leading maritime intelligence, capacity building, and strategic support to enhance governance and sustainability in the marine environment.

MAST (Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust) has become a champion for maritime heritage in the UK; conducting maritime archaeological projects; influencing heritage management by Government; increasing public awareness, education, training and campaigning. 

MAST leads the ongoing investigation into the exploitation of UK historic wrecks by commercial salvors including the destruction of designated World War One wrecks in the North Sea and World War Two wrecks in the Java Sea.

The Maritime Observatory is an innovative collaboration between MAST and OceanMind to protect the most vulnerable submerged cultural heritage sites world-wide. Harnessing cutting-edge satellite and machine learning technologies developed for commercial fisheries monitoring, the Maritime Observatory’s mission is to detect, deter, and disrupt unauthorised salvage activity at sea. The Maritime Observatory is the foremost provider of these services to UK and European Government Departments, Non-Governmental Organisations and charities.

The team will be working with the University of Cranfield to produce the white paper in 2023-24 which will be available for wider application and academic research.