Seeing Majority of Fishing Vessels

Seeing Majority of Fishing Vessels 2020-03-06T14:24:28-05:00

September 2016

Revealed the invisible and opened a new world
of ocean research and conservation

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February 2017

Published the first public global footprint and
analysis of fisheries transshipment at sea

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June 2017

Paved the way for government transparency
through sharing of vessel monitoring data

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February 2018

Published study in Science that illuminated the extent of global fishing in unprecedented resolution

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Global Fishing Watch detects and reveals the vast majority* of all industrial-sized fishing vessels.

When we launched in September 2016, Global Fishing Watch revealed the behavior of 35,000 fishing vessels. Through machine learning and carefully cross-checking the data by hand, we have refined our platform to detect more than 60,000 fishing vessels (those required to carry AIS: roughly 24 meters and larger).

In June 2017, we added 5,000 smaller vessels (16 meters and up) with the incorporation of government VMS data from Indonesia. In November, 2017, we began incorporating AIS data from 50 new satellites from our vendor Spire, doubling the AIS data our platform, increasing resolution and generating more continuous vessel tracks. In October 2018, we increased the number of Peruvian fishing vessels in our system from about 100 to 1300 by adding Peruvian VMS data. In October 2019, we incorporated Panama’s VMS into our system, sharing data from over 300 fishing and carrier vessels from Panama’s government in our platform. In March 2020, Chile published its VMS data in Global Fishing Watch, adding over 800 artisanal and industrial fishing vessels to our public map.

Why it’s important

Before Global Fishing Watch, most of what happened on the oceans remained over the horizon and out of site. Our launch proved that public transparency of the world’s fishing fleet was possible. By revealing the vast majority of the industrial fleet and publishing the first government VMS data we affirm that transparency is inevitable.

The more transparency we create, the greater the pressure will be on governments and management organizations to ensure compliance with fisheries regulations, the harder it will be for bad actors to report false locations or turn off their AIS without drawing attention, and the easier it will be for seafood suppliers and consumers to demand the traceability of the fish they buy.

Where we’re headed

Our team is continually increasing the information they can derive from the data and adding features to the platform. We will soon be adding a layer to our public platform that identifies vessels by gear type—an important distinction as different gear types have different regulations and varied impacts on the environment.

Our ultimate goal, however, is to make 80 percent of all motorized fishing vessels visible to the world. That will require the expansion of AIS use to all motorized vessels and the public sharing of VMS by all governments. It will require us to automate the processing of other forms of data such as satellite imagery and vessel registries. We believe these things are on the horizon, and our first-year track record has been encouraging sign.

*Determining the percentage of vessels we see

Having good explicit data that tells us how people are using the oceans, helps us understand why people are using the oceans and where people are using the oceans puts us in a really good position to start mapping out a more intelligent future for people and for fish.”

– Douglas McCauley, Marine Ecologist, University of California Santa Barbara 

Every time I give a demonstration of Global Fishing Watch, people show me something different in the data that I was unaware of—Economists see something different from oceanographers and policy people or ecologists. There are just so many applications yet to be discovered.

– Brian Sullivan, Senior Program Manager, Google Earth Outreach, and Global Fishing Watch co-founder