Stories from the Field: Protecting the Biggest Marine National Park System in Africa

A look at how Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux du Gabon (ANPN) is leveraging Skylight to protect its rich marine ecosystems

A whale seen off Pointe Denis, Gabon. Photo courtesy Vipin Kumar


Gabon’s waters are home to some of the world’s most iconic and keystone species. From the world’s largest nesting population of leatherback sea turtles to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest population of humpback whales and nearly 70 different sharks, the country’s diverse marine habitats make it a perfect home for a wide range of species. 

To safeguard these precious natural resources, Gabon has set up a sustainable fisheries management plan and created Africa’s largest network of marine protected areas (MPA). Despite these efforts, overfishing and abuses by foreign vessels continued. For the country’s park agency, Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux du Gabon (ANPN), it was difficult to track these vessels. Their current tool, Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), gave them great insights into the movements of their national fleet, but weren’t designed to monitor those vessels when they switch their VMS off.


Over the past four years, Skylight has been supporting ANPN’s ability to better track fishing activites. Any time a vessel enters an area of interest, the platform alerts Gabonese maritime analysts. This is helping them identify anomalous vessel behavior inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and take action. In one such case, a Chinese-flagged vessel (according to its MMSI) illegally entered a restricted MPA. Despite the vessel not transmitting VMS, it was visible on AIS through Skylight and ANPN issued a warning.

Skylight alerted ANPN officials of GUO JI 838 illegally entering a restricted MPA. As a result, an ANPN maritime patrol was sent to interdict.

Skylight has also been collecting radar imagery to support ANPN’s ability to monitor northern and southern border intrusions by foreign vessels not carrying AIS or VMS. This is also of particular interest to partners of ANPN, which supports annual patrols in Gabon. As Skylight incorporates additional imagery sources and types into the platform, the area and frequency at which ANPN can detect these vessels will significantly increase. And these advances cannot come soon enough. By leveraging game-changing technologies such as computer vision for satellite imagery, Gabon’s park agency is getting the information it needs to help protect essential habitats, ultimately restoring the productivity of our ocean. 

With the addition of satellite radar data, Skylight is improving ANPN's ability to detect potential "dark" illegal fishing activities.

Last but not least, ANPN is also a user of the EarthRanger platform, which makes it our first agency that is monitoring both marine and terrestrial parks through Allen Institute for AI’s suite of conservation products.