Open Ocean

Transforming ocean management by
making the invisible visible

When it comes to ocean governance, there lies a simple truth:

We can't manage what we can't see.

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Most of the ocean has gone unobserved and unmapped—a world of unknown. And without a comprehensive picture of what goes on beyond the horizon, we are powerless to make meaningful change.

But satellites are giving us eyes from space.

Now, under the open ocean project, we will use these satellites to shine a light on all industrial human activity at sea–and make it freely available to the world.

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Industrial fishing vessels
Non-fishing vessels
Fixed infrastructure
Small-scale fishing boats

Operating in the Dark

While detailed maps of nearly every land area on the planet exist, we simply do not have the same information about the marine domain—there’s no comprehensive map of fishing, shipping or infrastructure. 

In this data void, it is all too easy to do harm to the environment, mismanage marine resources or disregard the law—and get away with it. Ocean managers, government authorities and conservationists are operating in the dark.

Until now.

Making the Invisible 


An explosion in artificial intelligence and the availability of satellite data are making it possible to map the ocean like never before. The number of remote-sensing satellites continues to dramatically grow each year, providing imagery of even the most remote parts of the ocean in near-real time. Advances in machine learning and cloud computing allow us to translate these billions of data points into understandable information. 

This exciting technology offers the opportunity to create a “digital ocean”–an interactive online map that publicly reveals all industrial human activity at sea. We call it the open ocean project and it has the power to transform how we view the ocean—and protect it.

Bringing the Ocean into Focus

We will process millions of gigabytes of satellite data to map and monitor industrial activity at sea, including all industrial fishing vessels, hundreds of thousands of small-scale fishing boats, and all large non-fishing vessels like cargo ships, cruise liners and oil tankers. We will also reveal all oil and gas rigs, mining and other fixed infrastructure like aquaculture pens and ocean wind farms. We will build a picture of what is being done across the ocean, where and by whom. And we’ll make this knowledge available for anyone to use.

Let's get Audacious!

The Audacious Project, housed at ​​TED—a nonprofit media organization dedicated to sharing ideas worth spreading—is a collaborative funding initiative catalyzing social impact on a grand scale. Each year they select and nurture a group of big, bold solutions to address the world’s most urgent challenges and, with the support of an inspiring group of donors and supporters, come together to get them launched. We are proud to be one of those big, bold solutions. With a $60 million investment through The Audacious Project, we are leveraging open data and emerging technology to revolutionize global ocean management. 

Big, bold ideas can’t succeed in isolation. If you want to contribute, participate or just learn more, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch!

Related Experts

Paul Woods GFW
Paul Woods

Paul Woods is co-founder and chief innovation officer of Global Fishing Watch, serving as the principal architect of the technology platform.

David Kroodsma GFW
David Kroodsma

David Kroodsma leads the research team, which includes data scientists and machine learning engineers and research partners around the globe.

Global Fishing Watch at a Glance

We believe information about the ocean should be common knowledge. We create and publicly share knowledge about human activity at sea to enable fair and sustainable use of our ocean. We make that information available to anyone with the goal of accelerating science and driving fairer, smarter policies that reward good behavior and protect biodiversity and livelihoods.

The Global Fishing Watch map has allowed stakeholders to gain insights into how vessels behave, or misbehave, at sea. Turning data into action, needs eyes in the sky and feet on the ground. We seek to sustain and scale our impact, and grow the global community harnessing technology to revolutionize ocean stewardship.

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