The Northern Territory is using a Microsoft AI solution to help the Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) monitor and manage marine health around Darwin Harbour.

This is being done by rapidly analysing underwater video captured around the harbour.

According to Microsoft, the AI platform automates the laborious process of counting local fish stocks by progressively learning to identify different varieties of fish.

Built using Azure Cognitive Services, it has global conservation potential as it can be trained to spot an array of different animal and fish species, using techniques similar to those used for facial recognition in social media.

Scientists are unable to enter the water which is infested with saltwater crocodiles and sharks. So instead they deploy buoys with underwater cameras watching hours of footage spotting and counting fish.

They previously spent tens of hours watching footage in order to spot and count fish. The new AI system analyses hours of video in minutes.

The creation of the AI solution was completed within a short timeframe. Using Microsoft Azure AI services, the first iteration of the system was up and running in a month.

The solution was widely deployed within six months, and its identification powers have been progressively enhanced using machine learning ever since. According to Microsoft, the AI system is now able to identify a fish in a video with 95 to 99 per cent accuracy.

Lee Hickin, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Australia said, “Cloud computing and AI are combining to support scientists to gain a deeper understanding of fish populations. Freed from the mundane aspects of counting and identifying fish, scientists can instead take the insights from the AI solution and focus on making informed decisions that have significant environmental and economic impacts.”

Expanding across the NT

Further potential applications across the NT are already being considered, including monitoring feral fish in the freshwater systems of the NT and cattle movements across the Territory.

Rowan Dollar, CIO at DPIR said he is keen to explore the potential regulatory applications of the technology, for example keeping an eye on the commercial catch.

“We could look into setting up a camera on a trawler that’s out at sea and doing on-the-fly identification of the catch, so we can start measuring by-catch. We can start being able to identify that in real-time, to help better manage those fisheries.

“It’s important for every government jurisdiction, regardless of who you are or where you are, to be using technology to gather and analyse data. It’ll help you be more efficient and give better value back to your stakeholders.”

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