New Partnership Expands Our View to Artisanal Fisheries

Today, Global Fishing Watch is focused on tracking commercial-scale fishing fleets, because they are the ones required to carry Automatic Identification Systems that broadcast their information to satellites. But small, artisanal fishing vessels represent another side of the picture that can’t be ignored. Although they often employ low-tech, traditional fishing methods (especially in developing countries), small-boat subsistence fishers and those that supply local markets also supply major seafood supply chains and operate around the world. They catch about the same amount of fish for human consumption as commercial fisheries.

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Called a panga, a traditional fishing vessel is fitted with outriggers. Now it also sports a tracking device.

Understanding where and when artisanal boats are fishing and what they catch is critical for effective fisheries management. It is a growing priority for marine conservation. That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with PT Bali Seafood International and Pelagic Data Systems on a pilot program that will install lightweight tracking devices on approximately 100 small artisanal fishing vessels.

The devices will provide data for sustainable management efforts as well as traceability for participants in the program. With rising demand for transparency in the seafood trade, small-scale fisheries are increasingly faced with the challenges of documenting traceability. The addition of tracking devices will provide full transparency for participating boats and increase the value of their catch.

Artisanal fisherman in Indonesia with a Pelagic Data Systems tracking device mounted to his boat.


“We are fortunate to be at a place where we have the technology, the partnerships and the momentum to make fishing activity as transparent as possible,” said Dave Solomon, CEO of Pelagic Data Systems. The ultra light vessel tracking system being used combines a passive, solar powered transponder with cloud-based data analytics to capture and analyze fishing data with minimal effort from the fisher.

Bali Seafood International and Pelagic Data Systems completed a successful 20-boat pilot program in 2015 in which they tracked Ahi tuna caught off Sumbawa in the Indonesian archipelago. This second pilot project will further improve transparency across the small-boat fishing fleets of the developing world. “Now that we are scaling the electronic tracking of the small boat fleet,” said Bali Seafood president and founder Jerry Knecht, “we can begin to fill in the coastal vessel location and harvest picture, allowing for effective management at all levels of harvest.”

Through the partnership, we will be incorporating this data into the Global Fishing Watch tool which is free to everyone. “We’re excited to see Global Fishing Watch used as a positive market incentive, helping producers move toward greater transparency in their operations,” said Brian Sullivan, our project leader from Google.

About our partners:

PT Bali Seafood International, the Indonesian subsidiary of North Atlantic Inc., is an exporter of fully traceable, wild caught seafood. BSI has pioneered an integrated fisheries management model by building local community support in pursuit of sustainable resource harvesting – driving positive social impact in the communities in which it works and hook-to-plate transparency for its customers.

Pelagic Data Systems develops scalable solutions for fishing traceability. PDS operates under the tenant that it’s possible to help fishermen earn a better living, while reducing the amount of seafood that goes to waste and minimizing the environmental impact of fishing.


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