Overfishing and Illegal Fishing Activity Revealed to Public Through Online Platform

overfishing remains a huge problem

Global Fishing Watch has become the first online platform allowing users to access and track commercial fishing activities. The platform, which was launched jointly by Oceana, SkyTruth, and Google, allows users a complete view of the global fishing industry, encouraging the rebuilding of fish stocks and discouraging illegal activity such as overfishing and fish fraud.

The announcement revealing the launch of Global Fishing Watch was made in tandem with the Our Ocean Conference in Washington D.C., hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Global Fishing Watch is an interactive free online tool that uses public broadcast data from the Automatic Identification System to show the movement of 35,000 fishing vessels around the world. Tracking information is made available from January 1, 2012 to three days prior to the present day. This information is key for allowing governments to track suspicious vessels, for reducing seafood fraud and overfishing, and for journalists and citizens to stay informed about fishing practices worldwide.

“Global Fishing Watch is a powerful tool in the fight against illegal fishing and has tremendous potential to preserve and protect our world’s delicate marine ecosystem for generations to come,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Vice President for the United States and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana.

Certain countries and organizations are actively collaborating with Global Fishing Watch to increase transparency. Indonesia is one nation that has made all of its registered fishing vessels with trackers visible to the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is exploring ways to provide transparency tools to different nations, thus leading to more accurate fishery reporting.

“While many of the environmental trends in the ocean can be sobering, the combination of cloud computing, machine learning, and massive data is enabling new tools to visualize, understand and potentially reverse these trends,” said Brian Sullivan, Sr. Program Manager at Google Ocean & Earth Outreach. “We are excited to contribute a Google-scale approach toward ocean sustainability and public awareness.”

Illegal fishing remains a huge problem worldwide, contributing to somewhere between 11 million and 26 million tons of fish annually, approximately 14 to 33 percent of the world’s total legal catch in 2011, according to World Ocean Review.

More than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed into the realm of overfishing and “are in need of strict management plans to restore them,” according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Funding partners for Global Fishing Watch include the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Marisla Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Wyss Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation and Adessium Foundation.

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Fishing image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco