The battle to protect our oceans from illegal fishing and overexploitation has received a significant boost with the advent of an innovative technology-driven initiative. Global Fishing Watch, an international nonprofit organization, has launched the world's first livestream map that monitors the activities of the global fishing fleet in real-time. This groundbreaking development, aimed at enhancing transparency and sustainability, aligns with the vision of creating a global society that prioritizes the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fosters a sense of responsibility towards our natural resources.
Illegal fishing poses a significant threat to the environment, human rights, and global food security. Pew estimates that illegal fishing accounts for up to $23.5 billion worth of seafood annually, equivalent to one in every five fish taken from the ocean. Recognizing the urgency of addressing this issue, Global Fishing Watch collaborates with various organizations and utilizes cutting-edge technologies to monitor fishing activities worldwide. Initially a joint effort between Oceana, SkyTruth, and Google in 2015, Global Fishing Watch has since become an independent global nonprofit committed to advancing ocean governance through enhanced transparency.
By harnessing the power of satellite technology, cloud computing, and machine learning, Global Fishing Watch collects and processes tracking data from numerous sources, making it accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Publicly available tracking sources such as the automatic identification system, vessel monitoring system, public vessel registries, and satellite imaging are integrated into the organization's data platform. This comprehensive approach enables users to explore and monitor human activity at sea through freely accessible maps, visualizations, and analysis tools.
"Technologies used in North Korea can be used anywhere and everywhere to make the invisible visible," said Tony Long, CEO of Global Fishing Watch, during his TED Talk. By employing additional technologies alongside GPS, Global Fishing Watch successfully detected "dark vessels" in regions like North Korea, where illegal fishing activities were previously concealed. The exposure of these illicit practices prompted authorities to take action, resulting in a significant reduction of illegal fishing in the area. Long emphasized the transformative potential of technology in promoting ocean transparency, comparing it to the readily available information about road and land activities on the internet.
The open-source nature of Global Fishing Watch's approach is particularly crucial in light of the recently-signed High Seas Treaty by the United Nations, which aims to protect 30% of the world's oceans by 2030. The treaty establishes rules for member states to safeguard marine biodiversity, address resource disputes, and ensure sustainable shipping practices. To achieve these ambitious goals, Long advocates for a common reporting system that fosters transparency and facilitates collaboration among nations. Global Fishing Watch, with its open reporting system and commitment to accessibility, emerges as a scalable and affordable methodology that can contribute to the treaty's objectives.
With support from The Audacious Project, Global Fishing Watch has launched the Open Ocean Project. Over the next five years, this ambitious initiative aims to map 100% of industrial fishing vessels, hundreds of thousands of small-scale fishing boats, non-fishing vessels, and all fixed infrastructure at sea. The resulting robust map will empower experts, concerned citizens, governments, and scientists to identify and address destructive fishing practices more effectively, enabling collective efforts towards improved ocean stewardship.
The invaluable technology and open-source philosophy championed by Global Fishing Watch facilitate global collaboration in conserving our oceans. The organization's efforts are attracting widespread interest, with buyers and suppliers recognizing the role transparency plays in enforcing due diligence within the market. By utilizing data to hold fleets accountable, stakeholders are driving positive change and demanding responsible fishing practices. Global Fishing Watch's initiatives are poised to redefine ocean governance, equipping individuals with the necessary tools to protect our marine ecosystems for future generations.
As the world navigates the challenges posed by illegal fishing and overexploitation, Global Fishing Watch's livestream map emerges as a beacon of hope. By shedding light on human activity at sea, the organization enables global citizens to actively participate in the vision of a sustainable global society that upholds the SDGs. The seamless integration of technology, civil society, and sustainability principles within Global Fishing Watch's initiatives demonstrates the potential for transformative change when collective action is taken to safeguard our oceans.
More information: https://globalfishingwatch.org
Youtube credits: @GlobalFishingWatch
Cover image by Global Fishing Watch
Related information: https://www.audaciousproject.org/