New data collected by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has brought forth the first publicly available real-time map showing the location and identity of thousands of vessels operating at night in waters that lie beyond a countries jurisdiction.
When applied, the new map is so exciting in that it is exposing fleets of previously unmonitored fishing vessels on the ocean which will help lead to the eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The map rolled out on this years World Oceans Day and is using NOAA’s visible infrared imaging radiometer suite to track fleets of ships that are not fitted with transponders and larger ones that have switched off their tracking systems to avoid detection.
The monitoring, which is conducted by GFW (a non-profit organization that is focused on having greater transparency in the fishing industry) and the conservation group Oceana, has already revealed that about 20% of Chinese ships are not broadcasting via automatic tracking systems.
The mapping system also coincides with GFW’s release of the first ever real-time view of transshipment, which enables fishing boats to transfer their catch to refrigerated cargo vessels and remain at sea for months, or even years, at a time but still get their catch to the market.
“By harnessing big data and artificial intelligence, we’re able to generate a clearer view into the often shady practice of transshipment,” said Paul Woods, chief technology officer at GFW.
Currently, China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea account for over two-thirds of fish caught in the open ocean including 500 vessels belong to Japan’s distant water fleet.
Having the ability to stay at seas for so long may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.
Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse.