Google to use satellites to monitor illegal fishing
SYDNEY, Australia — Google announced last month in Sydney, Australia, a partnership with Oceana and SkyTruth to launch a technology-based platform to leverage big data gained from satellites to illuminate where the entire world’s fishing is taking place.
Officially released as a prototype at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney on Nov. 14, a public version of the platform known as Global Fishing Watch is currently being developed.
Using data points collected from the Automatic Identification System
(AIS) network, Global Fishing Watch would be able to determine how humans are interacting with the ocean. Basically a GPS system capable of broadcasting a ship’s location as a safety mechanism, AIS would be used to provide data about a vessel’s identity, speed and direction.
Global Fishing Watch would not include information about cargo ships or activity of other non-fishing vessels.
The technology would reportedly analyze about 300 million data points from more than 25,000 vessels.
“Global Fishing Watch is designed to empower all stakeholders, including governments, fishery managers, citizens and members of the fishing industry itself, so that together they may work to bring back a healthy, bio-diverse and maximally productive ocean,” said Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless. “By engaging citizens to hold their elected officials accountable for managing fisheries sustainably and for enforcing fishing rules, Global Fishing Watch will help bring back the world’s fisheries, protecting and enhancing the livelihoods of the hundreds of millions of people who depend on ocean fisheries for food and income.”
SkyTruth Founder and President John Amos said Google Fishing Watch would help transform a significant portion of the world from darkness to transparency.
“So much of what happens out on the high seas is invisible, and that has been a huge barrier to understanding and showing the world what’s at stake for the ocean. But now, satellite data is allowing us to make human interaction with the ocean more transparent than ever before,” Amos said.
Through Google Fishing Watch, the public would be able to monitor whether anglers are either maintaining sustainable practices or overfishing.
“While many of the environmental trends in the ocean can be sobering, the combination of cloud computing and massive data is enabling new tools to visualize, understand and potentially reverse these trends,” said Brian Sullivan, a program manager with Google Ocean & Earth Outreach.
Google, Oceana and SkyTruth presented and demonstrated Global Fishing Watch during the 6th IUCN World Parks Congress, which brought together 5,000 delegates from more than 170 countries to discuss sustainability, the environment and protected areas.
According to the World Parks Congress, the platform would enable users “to monitor when and where commercial fishing is happening around the world” and give people the chance to monitor, from their own home, whether any given fishery is “being managed effectively.”
Through Global Fishing Watch, anglers would also be able to demonstrate, the World Parks Congress said, “they are obeying international and environmental laws and guidelines.”
Off the coast of California, it would also be easier for anglers to identify the borders of marine protected areas or whether they are fishing off the coast of Mexico.
According to the Global Ocean Commission, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing costs as much as $23.5 billion annually.
The commission added illegal fishing is made easier because it occurs so far away from land, making monitoring and policing problematic. Further, the high seas are “regarded as a global commons” and any fishing there is unregulated, the Global Ocean Commission added.
“All states have the right to fish on the high seas, subject to their treaty obligations and their duty to cooperate with other States in conservation and management, but when high seas fishing is undertaken by a State that is not a party to a regional fisheries management organization … it may undermine the conservation measures,” the commission stated in a report published in November 2013.
Global Fishing Watch could at least help address the monitoring and policing elements.
A demo video and Oceana’s initial report is available for the public at globalfishingwatch.org.