Our initiatives focus on expanding fisheries transparency and understanding the behaviors of commercial fishing vessels.
Launching a public platform on a single AIS data source to expand transparency in commercial fishing was just the first step towards improving the sustainability of our oceans. We continue to add more data sources to our transparency platform, increasing the number of vessels in our database and filling gaps in vessel tracks. At the same time, our data analysts use machine learning to identify patterns in vessel behavior to gain insight into what’s happening between the world’s fisheries and the vessels that fish them. By making this information freely accessible, we are stimulating further research by other individuals and organizations and turning what we are learning into actionable knowledge that is making a difference in fisheries management, seafood sourcing, and ocean conservation.
Transshipment is a sometimes legal but poorly regulated activity involving refrigerated cargo vessels (reefers) that gather catch from multiple fishing boats while at sea for transfer to port. Because it occurs away from land and out of sight, transshipment creates substantial opportunity for overfishing and illegal fishing, and has also been associated with criminal activities including smuggling and human trafficking. The limited capacity to provide oversight of transshipment at sea has made it weak-spot in governance of fishing activity.
In February 2016, we published a ground-breaking report that identified more than 5,500 likely transshipments over a five-year period and, along with our partners, continue to analyze transshipment data to support more informed policymaking. We have continued to refine our analyses, publishing an updated report and using our new-found knowledge in several investigations of suspicious activity.
Most fishing nations collect Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data to track commercial fishing activity in their nation’s waters but typically do not make that information public. This data is owned by the national government and includes information on the country’s commercial fishing fleet and foreign vessels registered to fish in their waters.
In an unprecedented action that added 5,000 vessels to our map, we partnered with the government of Indonesia to publish their VMS data on our fishing activity map. That event, announced in 2017 at the UN Ocean Conference, marked a dramatic change in the global conversation around transparency. For the first time, sustainability of the ocean’s fisheries trumped other priorities, and VMS transparency became a reality and not just an aspiration. At the same conference, the government of Peru announced that it would follow Indonesia’s lead and also publish its VMS data through Global Fishing Watch. We are committed to processing and publishing VMS data from any nation committed to taking this same bold step toward transparency in what remains the among the most opaque sectors of the global economy.