The automatic identification system, or AIS, transmits a ship’s position so that other ships are aware of its position. The International Maritime Organization and other management bodies require large ships, including many commercial fishing vessels, to broadcast their position with AIS in order to avoid collisions. Each year, more than 400,000 AIS devices broadcast vessel location, identity, course and speed information. Ground stations and satellites pick up this information, making vessels trackable even in the most remote areas of the ocean.
While only two percent of the world’s roughly 2.9 million fishing vessels carry AIS, they are responsible for over half of the fishing effort that takes place more than 100 nautical miles from shore, and as much as 80 percent of the fishing that occurs on the high seas. The number of fishing vessels with AIS is increasing by 10 to 30 percent each year, making this technology more and more informative with time.