Global Fishing Watch commends the Republic of Marshall Islands’ leadership toward fisheries transparency
KOROR, THE REPUBLIC OF PALAU – The Republic of the Marshall Islands has committed to sharing its vessel monitoring data on Global Fishing Watch’s public map, bolstering ocean governance and promoting compliance throughout some of the world’s richest fishing grounds. This momentous decision was announced on April 14, 2022 at the seventh Our Oceans Conference by the Honorable John M. Silk, Minister of Natural Resources and Commerce for the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The declaration marks the first Pacific island nation to make its fishing activity visible to the world.
The partnership agreement was signed between the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) and Global Fishing Watch, symbolizing the two organizations’ dedication to advancing transparency of fishing activities in the Pacific Islands region, home to the world’s most productive tuna fisheries.
All vessels flying the Marshall Islands’ flag and foreign vessels fishing in its fishery waters will appear on Global Fishing Watch’s map through the integration of the government’s vessel monitoring system (VMS) data. These vessels primarily target tropical tuna species of the Western and Central Pacific ocean, which hold environmental, economic and cultural significance across the region’s island nations—around half of the world’s tuna catch comes from these waters.
“There is real value in open data when it comes to monitoring the ocean,” said Glen Joseph, Director of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority. “By making its fishing activity visible on the Global Fishing Watch map, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is helping demonstrate compliance. We hope the data-led insights complement already existing monitoring, control and surveillance tools to validate what is being reported by flag States and strengthen the way fisheries are managed.”
“Global Fishing Watch is honored to be partnering with the Marshall Islands to build greater transparency of fishing activity in the Pacific,” said Tony Long, chief executive officer of Global Fishing Watch. “This progressive decision will help facilitate accountability and good behavior in the region and support a more sustainable future by strengthening fisheries monitoring.”
“Our partnership with Global Fishing Watch is an important element of our regional commitment to combat IUU fishing,” said the Honorable John Silk, Minister for Natural Resources and Commerce, Republic of the Marshall Islands. “In 2018, Marshall Islands’ President Hilda Heine set out a bold vision of an IUU-free Pacific by 2023. Other Micronesian presidents signed onto that challenge the following year. To achieve this ambitious goal, we must harness innovative technologies to protect our marine resources and the livelihoods of Pacific people.”
Global Fishing Watch uses publicly broadcast automatic identification system data to track close to 70,000 commercial fishing vessels operating globally. Adding VMS data, which is required by many governments, provides an even clearer view of global fishing activity. The data can assist fishers abiding by the rules through faster, more efficient port entry and provide opportunities to implement regulatory and market incentives to reward them.
A country of coral islands and atolls spread out over 750,000 square miles (1.94 million square kilometers) of ocean between Hawaii and the Philippines, the Marshall Islands relies heavily on revenue from the tuna industry–well over one-third of the government’s domestic revenue comes from the tuna sector.
As a member of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and one of eight Parties to the Nauru Agreement, this independent small island developing State recognizes the importance of collaboration to secure sustainable fisheries. Enhanced monitoring and regional solidarity across FFA’s 17 Members has led to a decrease in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing throughout the Pacific, according to a recent quantification study which, in part, used Global Fishing Watch data to examine vessel activity throughout the region’s waters.
MIMRA’s fisheries MCS systems are state-of-the-art, and are backed by the resources of the FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre. Their monitoring systems build on an innovative management approach used by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement that caps regional fishing activity to support conservation and economic goals. With Global Fishing Watch now available to support and complement existing efforts, the Marshall Islands is taking the next step toward embracing fisheries transparency.
“Transparency can help vessel operators publicly demonstrate compliance and show their commitment to implementing relevant conservation measures,” added Tony Long. “We believe the Marshall Islands’ pioneering leadership will encourage other Pacific nations, as well as industry stakeholders, to embrace transparency in support of enhanced ocean governance.”
The Marshall Islands joins a growing group of countries that are already publicly sharing their VMS data through Global Fishing Watch, including Belize, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Peru. Transparency of its fishing activity demonstrates the Marshall Islands’ steadfast commitment towards compliance and will help amplify management and coordination efforts undertaken by the FFA. Global Fishing Watch’s international program to advance ocean governance through greater transparency is made possible with the generous support of Bloomberg Philanthropies.