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Welcome to the Ocean Action Grant Blog series! In this series we will be showcasing some of the different Ocean Action Grant projects youth have completed across Canada! The Ocean Action Grant is a microgrant that provides youth across Canada with up to $3000 in funding to lead an individual or collaborative project that contributes to positive change for the environment.

As a kid growing up in Toronto Andrew Polanyi would fly out to Vancouver Island each summer to go salmon fishing with his grandparents. From spending time on the ocean he got to experience seeing whales, dolphins, birds, and fish all living in harmony. Andrew developed a deep connection with the ocean and decided to move to Victoria to study Software Engineering at UVic. When he graduated last year, he wanted to use his software skills to help solve ocean problems. The problem he chose to focus on is the global problem of ghost fishing gear, which is abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear that continues to kill countless amounts of fish and marine life.

Andrew’s grandfather Jan Kaashoek (1963-2023) inspired his project as he taught Andrew everything he knows about the ocean. The ocean itself is the other main inspiration, as every time he is on the ocean he is in awe at the beauty and amount of life it holds. This passion he holds makes it difficult to witness the devastating impact humans are having on the ocean. So, Andrew decided there is no time to waste in helping to solve ocean problems. His grandfather let him use his boat, which he later purchased from him. Thus, he set out to make an impact by creating cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable ocean ecosystems.

Last year, Andrew participated and won Ocean Startup Project’s Ocean Community Climate Challenge with the idea of creating an automatic object detection system from sonar using AI. This challenge provided his team with valuable mentorship, experience, and some funding to buy his grandfather’s boat and a sonar to get out on the ocean and start collecting data. Their startup is called Ocean AID (, based out of Victoria, BC. Ocean AID works to harness the power of sonar with AI to detect underwater objects in real-time. They have developed a real-time automatic target recognition (ATR) system that is paired with a side scan sonar to detect and map locations of ghost fishing gear. This year they set out to validate this technology and applied for Ocean Wise’s Ocean Action Grant.

For their Ocean Action Grant they set out on a project called “Victoria Ghost Fishing Gear Retrieval Project” where they brought together volunteers around Victoria, BC to help clean the ocean. During this project they completed three beach cleanups, collecting more than 300 lbs of marine debris (Plastic, styrofoam, aluminium, ropes, buoys, pieces of boats, vapes, dog balls, used engine oil containers, metal, cigarettes, and more). They also completed four days on the boat detecting ghost gear, where they located 43 underwater traps and 7 ropes. This project was a huge success and it was very eye opening to see the amount of debris we found both on the beaches and underwater.

Ocean AID is on a mission to provide the fastest and most accurate real-time detection of underwater objects worldwide to empower marine decision-making. They are focused on making an impact with this technology and are currently working with First Nations and ocean restoration organisations across Canada to make locating and retrieving ghost fishing gear more efficient and less costly. The team is also already scaling this real-time ATR technology for many other applications such as search and rescue, finding wrecks, transportation collision avoidance, mine detection (UXO), scientific research, aquaculture, fisheries, and infrastructure Inspection. Our vision is to become a global leader in marine monitoring technology and create cleaner, healthier and more sustainable ocean ecosystems for the next generations

Posted March 26, 2024 by Nic Schulz

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