Singapore National Parks Board, Microsoft, and Conservation International have joined forces to develop an AI-powered mobile application called Fin Finder. This innovative app aims to combat the illegal wildlife trade of shark and ray species, which is one of the main drivers behind their rapid decline.
The Fin Finder app, created by a team from Conservation International in consultation with the Singapore National Parks Board and support from the Microsoft AI for Earth program, will be used by officers to identify illegally traded shark and ray species visually. This app is the first of its kind in Asia.
There are over 1,000 species of sharks and rays worldwide, with more than 30 species listed under the regulated trade in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II. In Singapore alone, over 160,000 kilograms of fins from CITES-listed sharks and rays have been imported between 2012 and 2020. Currently, officers need to collect fins from each shipment and conduct DNA testing to determine the species, which takes up to a week on average.
The Fin Finder app streamlines this process by allowing officers to take photos of fins, which will then be matched against a database of more than 15,000 shark and ray fin images using an AI-driven algorithm. Within seconds, the app running on Microsoft Azure can accurately identify the species, enabling officers to quickly flag suspicious shipments for further DNA testing and halt illegal trade.
Sharks and rays play a vital role in maintaining marine ecosystems, and their loss would have dire consequences for ocean health and food security. Singapore, as a major transhipment hub, is well-positioned to combat illegal wildlife trade, and the creation of Fin Finder reinforces their commitment.
Dr. Adrian Loo, Group Director of Wildlife Management at NParks, emphasizes the importance of using advanced technology in wildlife conservation and tackling illegal wildlife trade.
In addition to identifying illegally traded shark and ray fins, officers can also use Fin Finder as a directory of relevant species and access reference materials for validating CITES-approved permits or shipping documents. This feature saves time and effort in the validation process, enabling officers to act swiftly against illegal wildlife trade.
Fin Finder, a complex AI and cloud-based mobile application running on Microsoft Azure, was developed in just nine months. The project received support from various organizations, including Microsoft, Conservation International, the Singapore National Parks Board, and others.
Richard Koh, CTO at Microsoft Singapore, highlights the potential of AI in solving environmental challenges and expresses pride in supporting Fin Finder’s efforts to protect global shark and ray populations.
Fin Finder is part of the Microsoft AI for Earth program, which supports organizations using responsible AI and cloud computing to address environmental issues. This program is a part of Microsoft’s AI for Good initiative, which aims to solve global challenges through technology.
Overall, Fin Finder is a significant step forward in combating illegal wildlife trade and conserving marine biodiversity. Through the power of AI, this mobile app empowers officers to take swift action and protect our oceans for future generations.