Our data and analysis are allowing scientists to ask fundamental questions about fishing behavior that were previously impossible to investigate.
Before Global Fishing Watch, estimates of where and when fishing happened were based on self-reporting by vessel captains, onboard observer data, log books and landing records. The data was inconsistent and sporadic, but it was all researchers had to go on. Global Fishing Watch is the first ever publicly available resource to provide information from direct observation of fishing vessels, and it does this for multiple years on a global scale.
Why it’s important
Many of the world’s fisheries are in trouble. Scientifically based management strategies are vital to bringing them back and to building sustainable fisheries for future generations. Without reliable data from direct observation, even the best scientific methods cannot reliably estimate how much fish people have been taking from the ocean. The Global Fishing Watch platform provides the transparency needed for reliable estimates and a better understanding of the interactions between fishing vessels and the natural environment.
For example, our data was applied in the study “The economics of fishing the high seas”, published in June 2018 in Science Advances, to quantify the extent of fishing in the high seas. This analysis by a group of researchers from the National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project, Global Fishing Watch, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Sea Around Us initiative at the University of British Columbia and the University of Western Australia, can be used to better manage high seas fishing.
Where we’re headed
We make our data and analyses freely available for others to work with, and our team is continually updating the platform.
By helping to make transparency the norm, we envision a day when all countries share their VMS data, and AIS is required on all commercial fishing vessels. When the majority of all motorized fishing vessels on the ocean are visible, scientists will be able to better understand their impacts and policy makers can better manage their activities for the future.
“This data set is revolutionizing our ability to monitor and understand the dynamics of global fisheries. . . Without data to argue otherwise, proponents of the [Revillagigedo] protected area were powerless against claims from the fishing industry who argued that creating a no-take marine reserve would significantly affect their livelihoods. Global Fishing Watch has completely changed this and has leveled the playing field by providing the Pristine Seas team with objective and transparent information to bring to the negotiating table.”
– Juan Mayorga, Marine Data Scientist UCSB, National Geographic Pristine Seas
“I had for the past 15 years worked on the effects of the global fishery on the ecosystems, and something that always struck me is that we can’t quantify the number of boats that are engaged in this, and pinpoint their locations–that’s almost like trying to manage a forest without being able to count the trees, or the logging trucks, but now with 65,000 vessels– it opens a new possibility for doing away with the guesswork and replacing it by hard data”
– Boris Worm, Marine Research Ecologist, Dalhousie University, Canada