Technology and Enforcement in Ports Can Restrict Illegal Fishing

Date: August 7, 2015

Source: New York Times
Author: Mark Young, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Illegal Fishing accounts for roughly 1 out of every 5 fish taken from the seas. Poaching and the other crimes that come with it amount to big business, upwards of $23.5 billion every year.

Considering that the ocean covers 70 percent of the planet, it’s easy to see how illegal activity could go undetected. Still, while it would be impossible to effectively patrol such an expansive territory, authorities do not have to concede to criminals.

To keep tabs on the thousands of vessels spread out over a vast ocean, authorities need access to monitoring platforms that can detect anomalies and suspicious activity. Some fisheries management bodies, such as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, have this technology and are using it today. But not all governments can afford it, which is why platforms such as Project Eyes on the Seas were developed. This cost-effective monitoring tool has the potential to help authorities in even the most resource-poor regions identify illegal activity using a range of data, from vessel location reporting to satellite imagery.

But having access to this vessel information is worth only as much as the ability of authorities to take action. That’s why port controls matter. As a vessel nears port, enforcement officers can use information collected about the ship’s activities at sea to determine if it warrants closer inspection. In the most serious of cases, vessels identified as fishing illegally can be denied port access altogether.

In addition to leadership and commitment from governments, this type of approach requires international cooperation. With more countries aggressively working to end illegal fishing, it’s possible to envision a future in which maritime outlaws are run out of business.

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