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