Keeping an Eye on Fishy Activity

Global Fishing Watch is helping to monitor fishing activities in oceans worldwide.

Autor*in Anna Rees, 12.03.14

Global Fishing Watch is helping to monitor fishing activities in oceans worldwide.

Proper surveillance of fishing fleets can be difficult due to the far-flung locations of these vessels, making effective monitoring and tracking of fishing activities difficult to do thoroughly. Commercial fishing coupled with our planet’s growing appetite for fish (one in five people on the planet depend on fish as a source of protein) has led to a kind of chicken-and-egg situation where one is now dependent upon the other. Overfishing has seen 90 percent of the world’s fisheries become fully exploited or over-fished, according a 2014 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

To help keep tabs on the activities of vessels at sea, Google teamed up with Oceana and SkyTruth to launch the Global Fishing Watch project. Via its interactive web tool (which is currently still in prototype phase), members of the public can check up on trackable fishing activity in the ocean. The system ascertains vessel location from an Automatic Identification System and combines mapping technology with satellite imagery to reveal the travel path (categorised as either fishing or non-fishing) of each vessel over time.

The results are two-pronged: the public can get a visual representation of just how many ships are fishing at any one time while simultaneously being able to check whether fisheries are being properly managed and protected. The project’s partners are hoping to engage everyone – from the general public to politicians, from media to seafood companies – in the issue of overfishing. This initiative adds a dash of transparency to a system that lacks stringent regulation and looks to bolster efforts to sustainably manage our ocean’s fish stocks.

Check out the video below or head to the website for more information:

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Global consumption of fish is outpacing natural production, posing a significant threat to marine ecosystems. Commercially valuable species such as tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, skate, and flounder are fished at enormous quantities to the point where populations of said species are dangerously low.