Indonesia VMS

Indonesia VMS 2019-07-11T13:10:30+00:00

A new era for transparency

First-ever public release of Vessel Monitoring System data

  • Every lighted point on the map indicates a commercial vessel engaged in fishing.
  • Proprietary VMS data from the government of Indonesia is shown in green.
  • The new data reveals commercial fishing where it had previously been invisible to the public.

No nation has ever shared its Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data publicly before, but under the bold leadership of the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs, Susi Pudjiastuti, the Republic of Indonesia became the first. Her government is providing proprietary information on their fishing vessels for display on our fishing activity map.

Until now, Global Fishing Watch has relied exclusively on publicly broadcast Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships at sea to identify and map the fishing activity of the majority of all industrial-sized commercial fishing vessels–those with a capacity exceeding 100 gross tons, averaging around 24 meters. However, a large portion of the world’s fishing is conducted by vessels smaller than that, and many of these are not required to carry AIS, and therefore are not publicly trackable.

Many nations require smaller vessels that fly their flag or fish in their waters to install their proprietary VMS systems. Indonesian regulations require VMS on fishing vessels exceeding 30 Gross Tons (averaging about 16 meters or more) that are licensed to fish in their waters. The addition of their VMS data adds an important new layer to our monitoring capacity, and makes nearly 5,000 previously invisible fishing vessels viewable on the Global Fishing Watch heat map. The activity of those vessels has never before been visible to the public or to other governments.

Read the Joint Statement by The Republic of Indonesia and Global Fishing Watch

  • The Republic of Indonesia is now sharing its proprietary Vessel Monitoring System data for public display on our data mapping platform.
  • Indonesian Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs, Susi Pudjiastuti has called on all nations to follow her lead.
  • We have committed to receiving VMS data from any nation for free to process and publish on our public platform.

Peru becomes the second nation to publish VMS in GFW

  • In October 2018, Peru published its VMS data in Global Fishing Watch, increasing the number of vessels publicly viewable in our map from about 100 to 1300.

A new norm

Ocean fishing occurs mostly over the horizon and out of sight where monitoring and enforcement efforts face a blind spot nearly as large as the ocean itself. The lack of transparency has led to unchecked Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that is threatening vulnerable ecosystems and directly affecting the global economy.

When everyone can see where fishing occurs, international pressure from the public and other nations will drive better policy, inform sustainable management and create incentives to more strongly enforce the rules and management regimes that are already in place.

The Partnership

Data analysts at SkyTruth are working closely with the Indonesian government to process their VMS data, building on the algorithms we developed for AIS and finding news ways for the data sharing partnership to enhance their fisheries management.

Using our data analysis tools, we have been able to provide Indonesia with new analyses and insights into their fisheries, and we are now training and supporting their personnel in the management and usage of their data within Global Fishing Watch.


The overlap between our AIS data and the Indonesian VMS data is less than five percent. Nonetheless, in those rare instances where the same vessel is tracked in both data sets, the addition of VMS data helps us better track the vessel than if we were using the AIS data alone.

Designed as a collision avoidance system, AIS was intended primarily for ships to communicate with other ships and land-based stations within their vicinity. It is only recently, with the proliferation of satellite receivers and cloud-processing capabilities that we’ve been able use AIS signals for continuous monitoring. Unfortunately, there are gaps in coverage when satellites are not overhead, or when a vessel is in a crowded area and AIS signals interfere with one another to the point where they are indistinguishable. Our algorithm is able to account for these problems to some degree, but they pose a challenge.

VMS, on the other hand was designed as a vessel monitoring and tracking system right from the start. The data received is much more consistent than AIS data. Reception is guaranteed, so long as the system is on, a signal will be received. As the image below illustrates, the addition of Indonesia’s VMS data enables us to monitor more fully the movements of vessels that appear in both data sets.

The sample AIS track on the left reveals gaps in satellite reception. The VMS-derived track on the right shows no such gap.

In short, the addition of VMS data takes us one step closer to full transparency among commercial fishing vessels in national waters.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sharing Government-Owned VMS Data

Why should governments publicly publish their VMS or other data on our platform? 2018-06-22T13:14:56+00:00

Publication of VMS data contributes to ocean management on the global scale as it adds to a more comprehensive understanding of global fisheries. Governments can also benefit from a deeper understanding of their fisheries data by working with Global Fishing Watch.

Going public with their VMS  through GFW means for participating governments that:

  • Monitoring becomes cheaper, more effective, and that responsible fishing is rewarded.
  • Offenders will stand out more clearly and can be penalized appropriately.  
  • Countries who publicly share their VMS attract attention from buyers and suppliers who care about sustainably sourced and traceable seafood.
  • Public sharing of VMS data improves surveillance by encouraging vessels to comply with fisheries regulations; transparency breeds self-correcting behaviour.
  • Unauthorised vessels and those that don’t have a history of compliance can be easily spotted and prioritised for inspections.
  • Vessels that ‘go dark’ and turn off tracking devices can be held accountable when they come into port.
  • Better-targeted inspections for IUU-caught fish can also reveal other issues, such as lack of safety equipment or poor working conditions.
  • Public VMS is more cost effective, as by encouraging and rewarding compliance a country increases the number of vessels being tracked, and reduces the surveillance effort through traditional enforcement methods.
  • GFW can help identify illegal or suspicious activities at sea, such as transshipment.

In addition to these factors, governments sharing their VMS data publicly through GFW will receive a number of benefits in form of technical support from the GFW team.

What is Global Fishing Watch’s VMS transparency initiative? 2018-06-22T13:14:09+00:00

Global Fishing Watch plans to partner with 20 nations to make their VMS data public by 2023. We promote government transparency through the public exchange of VMS data to assist countries to better monitor their territorial waters and facilitate cooperative regional surveillance and enforcement.

What is Google’s role? 2018-06-22T13:15:55+00:00

Google provides support for Global Fishing Watch by donating technology services, such as cloud computing and machine learning resources. Google does not receive any money from Global Fishing Watch and does not receive the vessel tracking data. Google does not pay for the data and Google does not get to use the data. The VMS data belongs to Indonesia and is only shared with Global Fishing Watch, Inc. which is an independent, not-for-profit company supported exclusively by philanthropic donations. Global Fishing Watch does not pay for the VMS data, and Global Fishing Watch does not sell the data to anyone. All the services that Global Fishing Watch provides to the public and privately to the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries are provided for free through the generosity of the Walton and Packard foundations as well as the other Global Fishing Watch funders.

Are there concerns about Indonesia sharing VMS data? 2018-06-22T13:16:33+00:00

No matter what the industry, increasing transparency is always met with some anxiety from some corners. These are the concerns we’ve heard:

  • Sharing VMS is an invasion of privacy and it reveals fishing grounds to competitors. Larger vessels fishing in Indonesia are already required to reveal this information by carrying publicly broadcast Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). In addition, vessels fishing in other countries, such as the European Union, are already operating under this level of transparency.
  • Won’t sharing VMS simply force bad guys to turn off their VMS, undermining those who play by the rules and creating unfair competition? On the contrary, turning off VMS will raise suspicion among authorities and draw attention to illegal activity.
Does sharing VMS data spill Indonesian state secrets? 2018-06-22T13:16:53+00:00

No. In addition to limiting the information available on the public platform, extracting all sensitive data, we publish VMS and AIS data on a 72 hour delay. What we publish in Global Fishing Watch approximates the vessel information already being shared by the European Union and some other countries.

Why is transparency important to Indonesia? 2018-06-22T13:16:13+00:00

Illegal and unreported fishing has been a problem in Indonesian waters, as it is in many places around the world. Fishing vessels take catch without permits or take more than quotas allowed. Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia, Susi Pudjiastuti is especially concerned about the impact of transshipment in her waters. Transshipment is the practice of transferring catch from one vessel to another, usually to a large refrigerated cargo ship that can collect catch from many vessels before taking it to port, sometimes halfway around the world. The concern for Minister Susi is that fishing vessels are catching fish in Indonesian waters and transshipping it on the high seas, essentially stealing Indonesian fish. In addition, by offloading catch to another vessel, a boat may appear to have not met their quota, so they can continue fishing. They not only steal fish, but they avoid quotas and taxes on what they catch.

How does Indonesia benefit from sharing VMS data? 2018-06-22T13:17:16+00:00

Foreign vessel owners and operators will know that fishing in Indonesian waters means operating in an environment where it is harder to undermine effective management and oversight. By establishing a high standard for transparent operation, the government can easily justify strong transparency requirements for foreign vessels and operators, because the same rules are applied to domestic operators. In addition to public sharing, the Indonesian ministry of fisheries is gaining insight into their VMS data through working with Global Fishing Watch. Our analysts are assisting them in developing new ways to use their data for improved vessel monitoring and enforcement. By being the first to share its VMS data, Indonesia is a leader on the world stage, encouraging other nations to embrace transparency and allowing Indonesia to better monitor the vessels of other countries.

What other countries operate with similar transparency or share similar data? 2018-10-26T08:20:02+00:00

In October 2018, Peru became the second country to commit to transparency by publishing their VMS data through Global Fishing Watch. As of May 2018, Costa Rica is committed to doing the same.