Fishing boats in Kalk Bay

Article: Wired on using satellites to monitor illegal fishing

An article on reveals a bold plan to detect illegal fishing activity using satellite moitoring of AIS data of large ships at sea, and some clever algorithms to narrow down the data to ships (other than those registered as such) that are most likely fishing vessels. The project is called Global Fishing Watch, and has excellent potential as a tool provided that someone – anyone – will act on the information it provides. The project is a partnership between technology giant Google (via their Earth Outreach program), conservation organisation Oceana, and SkyTruth, which provides remote sensing technology for conservation purposes.

The perpetrators of a large amount of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are developed nations – ships from Spain, Russia, Japan, and China are regular offenders. Much of the IUU fishing takes place in the waters of developing nations – because they are poorly patrolled and still contain fish to harvest. Monitoring activity on the high seas purely by means of patrol vessels is next to impossible, which is why a tool that is technology based is an exciting addition to conservationists’ arsenal. It is hoped that in the future the tool will be available via a web interface, to anyone who cares to view it.

Read the Wired article here, and find out more on the Global Fishing Watch website.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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