Measuring Impacts of a Growing Fleet

Ocean-going vessel activity quantified at scale

fishing fleet coming into shore
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By processing and analyzing data from automatic identification systems (AIS), we are able to reveal the global pattern of all sea-going vessels and begin to identify their impacts on ocean ecosystems.

An increasing challenge 

Vessel traffic has quadrupled over the past two decades, driven largely by an increase in shipping. This rapid industrialization of the ocean has major effects on sea life. Collisions with cargo vessels are pushing some species of whales to the brink of extinction, and shipping lanes have increased the noise in the ocean by a factor of 30, creating deafening sounds for sea creatures. Just 13 percent of the ocean remains a wilderness and few places are untouched by human activity.

Vessel activity of all types is going to grow as the global economy expands, and we need tools to understand and manage its impact. Global Fishing Watch continues to map and monitor this activity while catalyzing research into its effects on marine life.

Data for better governance

Global Fishing Watch is taking the methods we have developed for identifying fishing vessel activity and applying them to all vessels broadcasting their positions via AIS. This work reveals the activity of vessels responsible for the majority of world trade, all major oil tankers, all cruise ships and countless others.

To help this data improve governance, we are partnering with researchers to address the many challenges posed by vessel traffic, such as identifying where whales are at risk of being struck by shipping traffic or better understanding the global impacts of the sand mining industry.

Our key technology draws on vessel registries and vessel behavior to identify and characterize these craft and build behavioral models that identify their activity. By applying these technologies to all vessels, we are able to better understand and manage human activity on the ocean.

Research Lead

Contributing Team

Recent Work
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