Vessel Monitoring Data: Indonesia

An unprecedented partnership to publish government data on fishing vessels from the second largest fishing nation in the world.

Indonesia VMS 2018-01-04T13:13:16+00:00

A New Era for Transparency

First-ever public release of Vessel Monitoring System data

  • Every lighted point on the map indicates a commercial vessel engaged in fishing.
  • Proprietary VMS data from the government of Indonesia is shown in green.
  • The new data reveals commercial fishing where it had previously been invisible to the public.

No nation has ever shared its Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data publicly before, but under the bold leadership of the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs, Susi Pudjiastuti, the Republic of Indonesia is doing exactly that. Her government is providing detailed, proprietary information on their fishing vessels for display on our fishing activity map.

Minister Susi has called on all other nations to follow her lead. Working in collaboration with Oceana to increase transparency in the global fishing fleet, Peru became the first nation to take up the call by pledging to share their VMS data with Global Fishing Watch.

Until now, Global Fishing Watch has relied exclusively on publicly broadcast Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships at sea to identify and map the fishing activity of the majority of all industrial-sized commercial fishing vessels–those with a capacity exceeding 100 gross tons, averaging around 24 meters. However, a large portion of the world’s fishing is conducted by vessels smaller than that, and many of these are not required to carry AIS, and therefore are not publicly trackable.

Many nations require smaller vessels that fly their flag or fish in their waters to install their proprietary VMS systems. Indonesian regulations require VMS on fishing vessels exceeding 30 Gross Tons (averaging about 16 meters or more) that are licensed to fish in their waters. The addition of their VMS data adds an important new layer to our monitoring capacity, and makes nearly 5,000 previously invisible fishing vessels viewable on the Global Fishing Watch heat map. The activity of those vessels has never before been visible to the public or to other governments.

Read the Joint Statement by The Republic of Indonesia and Global Fishing Watch

  • The Republic of Indonesia is now sharing its proprietary Vessel Monitoring System data for public display on our data mapping platform.
  • Indonesian Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs, Susi Pudjiastuti has called on all nations to follow her lead.
  • We have committed to receiving VMS data from any nation for free to process and publish on our public platform.

Peru becomes the first nation to step forward

  • Peru’s Vice Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hector Soldi, answered Minister Susi’s call, pledging in June 2017 to share his country’s VMS data with Global Fishing Watch.
  • In September, with the support of our partner, Oceana, the government of Peru signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the processing and publication of its VMS data.

Indonesia VMS Data Sharing FAQ

A New Norm

Ocean fishing occurs mostly over the horizon and out of sight where monitoring and enforcement efforts face a blind spot nearly as large as the ocean itself. The lack of transparency has led to unchecked Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that is threatening vulnerable ecosystems and directly affecting the global economy.

With the help of our new partner in Indonesia and the commitment from Peru, Global Fishing Watch has established a new standard for transparency in the fishing industry. We look forward to the day when all nations share their VMS data publicly with the world.

When everyone can see where fishing occurs, international pressure from the public and other nations will drive better policy, inform sustainable management and create incentives to more strongly enforce the rules and management regimes that are already in place.

The Partnership

For the past two years, data scientists at SkyTruth have been working closely with the Indonesian government to analyze and process their VMS data building on the algorithms we developed for AIS, and to find news ways for the data sharing partnership to enhance their fisheries management.

Using our data analysis tools, we have been able to provide them with new analyses and insights into their fisheries, and we are now training their personnel in the self-sufficient management and usage of Global Fishing Watch with their data.


The overlap between our AIS data and the Indonesian VMS data is less than five percent. Nonetheless, in those rare instances where the same vessel is tracked in both data sets, the addition of VMS data helps us better track the vessel than if we were using the AIS data alone.

Designed as a collision avoidance system, AIS was intended primarily for ships to communicate with other ships and land-based stations within their vicinity. It is only recently, with the proliferation of satellite receivers and cloud-processing capabilities that we’ve been able use AIS signals for continuous monitoring. Unfortunately, there are gaps in coverage when satellites are not overhead, or when a vessel is in a crowded area and AIS signals interfere with one another to the point where they are indistinguishable. Our algorithm is able to account for these problems to some degree, but they pose a challenge.

VMS, on the other hand was designed as a vessel monitoring and tracking system right from the start. The data received is much more consistent than AIS data. Reception is guaranteed, so long as the system is on, a signal will be received. As the image below illustrates, the addition of Indonesia’s VMS data enables us to monitor more fully the movements of vessels that appear in both data sets.

The sample AIS track on the left reveals gaps in satellite reception. The VMS-derived track on the right shows no such gap.

In short, the addition of VMS data takes us one step closer to full transparency among commercial fishing vessels in national waters.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sharing Government-Owned VMS Data

Is Google paying for Indonesia’s VMS data? 2017-12-28T14:58:01+00:00

Google does not receive the VMS data. The VMS data is shared with Global Fishing Watch, Inc. which is an independent, not-for-profit company supported exclusively by philanthropic donations. Google does not pay for the data and Google does not get to use the data.

Global Fishing Watch does not pay for the VMS data, and GFW does not sell the data to anyone. All the services that GFW provides to the public and privately to the KKP are provided for free through the generosity of the Walton and Packard foundations as well as the other GFW funders.

Google does provide support for GFW by donating technology services, such as cloud computing and machine learning resources. Google does not receive any money from Global Fishing Watch.

Why isn’t the US sharing VMS data? 2017-12-28T14:58:01+00:00

The United States does not publicly share VMS data as a matter of policy. Global Fishing Watch and many other organizations are advocating for all countries, including the United States, to share more of their fisheries data publicly, and we will be happy to publish VMS data from the US whenever the government is willing to release it. The US does require all fishing vessels over 65 feet in length to use AIS, so many large commercial fishing vessels in the US are already publicly trackable.

Are there concerns about Indonesia sharing their VMS data? 2017-12-28T14:58:01+00:00

No matter what the industry, increasing transparency is always met with some anxiety from some corners. These are the concerns we’ve heard:

  • Sharing VMS is an invasion of privacy and it reveals fishing grounds to competitors. Larger vessels fishing in Indonesia are already required to reveal this information by carrying publicly broadcast Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). In addition, vessels fishing in other countries, such as the European Union, are already operating under this level of transparency.
  • Won’t sharing VMS simply force bad guys to turn off their VMS, undermining those who play by the rules and creating unfair competition? On the contrary, turning off VMS will raise suspicion among authorities and draw attention to illegal activity.
Does sharing VMS data spill Indonesian state secrets? 2017-12-28T14:58:01+00:00

No. In addition to limiting the information available on the public platform, extracting all sensitive data, we publish VMS and AIS data on a 72 hour delay. What we publish in Global Fishing Watch approximates the vessel information already being shared by the European Union and some other countries.

Why is transparency important to Indonesians? 2017-12-28T14:58:01+00:00

Illegal and unreported fishing has been a problem in Indonesian waters, as it is in many places around the world. Fishing vessels take catch without permits or take more than quotas allowed. Minister Susi is especially concerned about the impact of transshipment in her waters. Transshipment is the practice of transferring catch from one vessel to another, usually to a large refrigerated cargo ship that can collect catch from many vessels before taking it to port, sometimes halfway around the world. The concern for Susi is that fishing vessels are catching fish in Indonesian waters and transshipping it on the high seas, essentially stealing Indonesian fish. In addition, by offloading catch to another vessel, a boat may appear to have not met their quota, so they can continue fishing. They not only steal fish, but they avoid quotas and taxes on what they catch.

How does Indonesia benefit from sharing VMS data? 2017-12-28T14:58:01+00:00

Foreign vessel owners and operators will know that fishing in Indonesian waters means operating in an environment where it is harder to undermine effective management and oversight.

By establishing a high standard for transparent operation, the government can easily justify strong transparency requirements for foreign vessels and operators, because the same rules are applied to domestic operators.

In addition to public sharing, the Indonesian ministry of fisheries is gaining insight into their VMS data through working with Global Fishing Watch. Our analysts are assisting them in developing new ways to use their data for improved vessel monitoring and enforcement.

By being the first to share its VMS data, Indonesia is a leader on the world stage, encouraging other nations to embrace transparency and allowing Indonesia to better monitor the vessels of other countries.

What other countries operate with similar transparency or share similar data? 2017-12-28T14:58:01+00:00

With the sharing of VMS data, Indonesia now joins a larger community of nations that have demonstrated the value and success of sharing fishing vessel time-location data as part of transparency efforts.

Since 2009, countries in the European Union have exhibited the same level of transparency. They require vessels of 15 meters (49 feet) and longer to carry publicly broadcast Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). Indonesia’s AIS requirements are not as stringent, but the VMS requirements are, requiring VMS on fishing vessels with a capacity of more than 30 Gross Tons, which averages about 16 meters (52 ft) in length. So, opening of VMS data brings Indonesia closer to a level of transparency that already exists in Europe.

It’s worth noting that nearly all of Norway’s fishing vessels broadcast AIS, and the Global Fishing Watch map currently displays more than 99 percent of the AIS-broadcasting vessels around the world.

Is Indonesia the first country to publicly share VMS data? 2017-12-28T14:58:01+00:00

Indonesia is the first country we know of to share VMS publicly. Peru has committed to sharing their VMS data next, and Global Fishing Watch is in discussion with other countries now. We are prepared to work with any nations interested in publishing their VMS data in order to make commercial fishing activity more transparent to the world.