Satellite watchers busted an illegal fishing vessel, and they’re coming for others around the world

Date: November 1, 2016

Source: Business Insider UK
Author: Gus Lubin

The island nation of Kiribati suspected that Marshalls 203 had violated its recently created no-fishing zone, but it didn’t have sufficient proof. That’s where Global Fishing Watch came in.

The non-profit, created by sea conservation group Oceana, environmental satellite imaging non-profit SkyTruth, and Google, identifies fishing boats by analyzing Automatic Identification Signals (AIS). It analyzes the movement of vessels to predict when they are fishing.

In the case of Marshalls 203, it provided unmistakable imagery that showed the boat fishing in the protected zone.

“When we provided this picture and they showed it to the vessel captain, he realized he was busted,” said Jackie Savitz, Oceana’s Vice President of Global Fishing Watch.

Kirbati used this imagery to force the fishing company to pay $2 million last year.

Global Fishing Watch, which features a online tool that anyone can use for free, has some blind spots. Among them, some ships, notably smaller ones, are not required to broadcast AIS data. Also, ships engaged in illegal activity might turn it off.

Sometimes blips in AIS transmission can be used to identify suspicious activity. Savitz pointed out one ship that had dropped off the map while passing through the Galapagos exclusive economic zone — a clear red flag.

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