Global Fishing Watch has created and made available to the public a transparency platform that expands our ability to observe fishing vessels at sea and to understand their behavior. In doing so, this unique platform serves as a mechanism for accelerating research and innovation in areas that support ocean sustainability, including fisheries policy and compliance, seafood sourcing, and ocean conservation.
There are three parts to the platform:
Fishing Activity Map
The map gives the public a way to see the tracks of commercial fishing vessels at sea in near real-time. Using our freely accessible map, anyone is able to analyze historical data dating to 2012, upload their own datasets to deepen and broaden their own analyses, and save and share their work.
In the summer of 2017, the government of Ecuador caught a refrigerated cargo vessel, the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, for illegally transporting sharks and shark fins in the waters of the Galapagos. At the government’s request, Global Fishing Watch analyzed the ship’s movements and identified four fishing vessels that likely rendezvoused with the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 long enough to transfer the illegal catch from their holds to the cargo ship.
Vessel Tracking Data
Data that provides information on fishing vessels at sea lies at the heart of our transparency platform. Our data scientists take raw satellite and terrestrial tracking data from several providers and process it so that we are able to “see” fishing vessels at sea and monitor what they are doing. Using machine learning to detect patterns in the data, our team can identify specific behaviors that indicate, for example, when a vessel is fishing and when it might be engaged in possible illegal activities. We incorporate a range of vessel signaling data and are continually seeking to add additional data to fill gaps in vessel tracks and add more vessels to the platform.
Our data scientists analyzed the movement of refrigerated cargo ships (reefers) to detect potential rendezvous with fishing vessels. We published their findings in our transshipment report, which identified and mapped more than 5,500 likely rendezvous over a 5-year period. It is the first global footprint of such rendezvous ever published.
Once the data has been processed and tested, we then make that data available through our research programs to anyone interested in using the data to generate new insights into fishing activities or to create tools that encourage more compliance with policies governing the world’s fisheries. By opening the platform to others, we are able to promote research and development of tools that otherwise might not happen as quickly – if at all.
Our data helped National Geographic’s Pristine Seas reveal that the Mexican tuna fleet’s reliance on a proposed Marine Protected Area was not substantial, and the monetary value of tourism in the area outweighed that of the tuna catch. Now, the newly expanded Revillagigedo Marine Preserve will be the largest off the coast of the Americas.