Frequently Asked Questions about
Sharing Government-Owned VMS Data
Is Indonesia the first country to publicly share VMS data?
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.
What other countries operate with similar transparency or share similar data?
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.
How does Indonesia benefit from sharing VMS data?
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.
Why is transparency important to Indonesians?
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.
Does sharing VMS data spill Indonesian state secrets?
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.
Are there concerns about Indonesia sharing their VMS data?
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.
Why isn’t the US sharing VMS data?
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.
Is Google paying for Indonesia’s VMS data?
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.
Read more here.
* Global Fishing Watch is an independent 501(c)(3) that was founded and supported by Oceana, SkyTruth and Google.