Our global initiatives focus on expanding fisheries transparency and understanding the behaviours of commercial fishing vessels.
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. Our work with Indonesia is made possible thanks to our founding partner, SkyTruth.
In October 2018, Peru followed suit by publishing their VMS data in our system, increasing the number of publicly trackable Peruvian vessels on our map from about 100 to 1300! In May 2018, Costa Rica committed to do the same, as did Panama in March 2019. Panama followed through by sharing their fishing and carrier vessel data via our system in October 2019.
We are committed to processing and publishing VMS data from any nation committed to taking this same bold step toward transparency.
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 2017, we published a ground-breaking report that identified more than 5,500 likely transshipments over a five-year period and in 2018 we released the first-ever ‘live’ global view of likely transshipping at sea. Along with SkyTruth and other partners, we continue to analyze transshipment data to support more informed policymaking and several investigations of suspicious activity.
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 behaviour 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.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are regions of the sea in which human activities are regulated in order to help conserve, manage, and protect vulnerable ecosystems and wildlife. Global Fishing Watch, along with governments, other non-profits, scientists, and others, have been applying our data to help create new MPAs and maintain existing ones.
By pinpointing where fishing activity occurs, our data can help policymakers determine the best placement for MPAs. Once MPAs are established, our data can inform surveillance on the effectiveness of no-take boundaries and monitor when incursions on protected areas occur.