Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has been using SpaceX Starlink to monitor fish populations in remote areas of British Columbia, revolutionizing their data collection process. The first unit was installed at Stamp River on Vancouver Island in April 2020, and since then DFO has been expanded its usage, with their Starlink network now spanning across nearly a dozen remote and rural locations.
Before Starlink, DFO struggled to get reliable internet services in remote areas that had the capability to stream video, making it challenging to monitor fish populations effectively. They had been monitoring fish populations at Sproat River on Vancouver Island using various methods since 2013, but the lack of stable internet connectivity had hindered their efforts.
With the arrival of Starlink, DFO has been able to overcome these challenges and improve their monitoring process significantly. In an interview with Drive Tesla, DFO officials explained their cameras are pointed at the water allowing them to determine water velocity and track fish populations accurately. Their partnership with Simon Fraser University has enabled DFO to collect data in real-time, providing crucial insights for managing sockeye and salmon runs in rivers like the Somas River.
“Starlink is giving us internet speeds we never thought we’d get, and it is giving us an internet connection in placed we otherwise wouldn’t be able to get it,” one of the officials told Drive Tesla.
As important as it is, the benefits of Starlink extend beyond just data collection. DFO staff stationed at remote camps are appreciative of having internet connectivity for communication and entertainment. There is also the benefit of being able to stream security camera images to check on their sites when no one is at these remote locations. Previously, DFO had to rely on costly and time-consuming methods like chartering planes to check on remote sites, but now they can easily access livestreams and data through the Starlink system.
Starlink has also proven to be more cost-effective compared to traditional satellite solutions. With their previous satellite internet provider Xplornet, DFO faced issues like bandwidth caps and were forced to increase their data packages, resulting in higher costs. In contrast, Starlink offers more reliable and faster internet speeds without data caps (until Starlink implements their Fair Use policy), at a much lower cost compared to their previous Xplornet package.
The savings aren’t just on their monthly payments. Starlink also eliminated the high upfront cost for installation, which could easily reach into the thousands of dollars depending on the site with the previous provider. With Starlink DFO employees can set up and maintain the system themselves.
The success of using Starlink for fish population monitoring has also led to collaborations with First Nations communities, with funding coming from the Canadian government. The availability of internet connectivity in remote areas has been a game-changer for DFO, allowing them to collect data, communicate, and manage fish populations more efficiently and effectively.