The world’s oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the planet’s water. Oceans house an abundance of life, providing energy and food for billions of humans.

But we haven’t returned the favor. Instead, we hunt marine species to extinction and dump chemical wastes into the water without a second thought. Thanks to a new project by a group of European researchers, however, the ocean may soon have an opportunity to fight back.

A group called The Shoal Consortium has developed a fully autonomous robot fish that measures ocean pollution levels and helps scientists track these contaminants back to their source. Like real fish, the robots are programmed to travel in groups or “shoals,” sharing information via ultrasonic communications to better pinpoint their targets.

The fish can map where it is, where it needs to go, what samples it has taken from where, and what the chemical composition of the samples are, as well as communicating all of this back through shallow water to scientists at a base station. The fish are battery powered but there’s no worry that they might “drown” if power levels get low. Each robot is programmed to return to a base station and autonomously charge itself before that happens.

According to Luke Speller, Project Leader of SHOAL and Senior Research Scientist at BMT Group, these fishy robots have the potential to cut the time it takes to detect and analyze pollutants in sea water time from weeks to just a few seconds.

Of course, the team could have created similar robots of any shape or size, but what better way to navigate the ocean than mimicking nature’s own design? “The design of a robotic fish is a very manoeuvrable, efficient, low noise solution,” reads the Consortium’s website. “The robotic fish have an incredibly small turning circle allowing them to navigate quickly in ports both to find pollution and avoid ships and the port infrastructure. It’s also low noise so as to not disturb the environment when outside of busy ports.”

The fish measure 5 feet in length and cost the equivalent of $31,500. Gizmodo reports that after tests this week, the team will make modifications to the model and hopefully move forward to commercial production, which is projected to bring down the cost-per-fish.