Tackling fishy business with fast, free maps

Introducing Global Fishing Watch — the world’s first free, online fishing monitoring tool

In the latest move to protect our marine environments from illegal fishing and overfishing, a new tool has been cast off to make commercial fishing more transparent. Global Fishing Watch is the first free online tool that reveals commercial fishing activity worldwide, and results from our work over the last few months with Oceana, SkyTruth and Google.

Global Fishing Watch tracks the activity of approximately 35,000 commercial fishing vessels. Using data that is transmitted by each ship to the Automatic Identification System, Global Fishing Watch is able to reveal the location of every ship and its movements over time. Governments, researchers, and citizens can keep watch on the world’s fishing fleet and identify ships that might be engaged in illegal fishing.

“Global Fishing Watch will empower citizens to become powerful advocates for our ocean,” said Ted Danson, actor and member of Oceana’s Board of Directors.

The official launch took place at the Our Ocean conference convened by the U.S. Department of State. Leonardo DiCaprio, the environmental activist whose foundation is a funding partner of Global Fishing Watch, presented Global Fishing Watch and described it as “innovative” and “unprecedented technology” before urging us all to take advantage of it.

Ted Danson introduced Global Fishing Watch at a pre-launch event in Washington, DC

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Protecting our oceans is important. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, fish provides 20 per cent of a person’s intake of animal protein for 3 billion people and fishing and aquaculture supports the livelihoods of 10–12 per cent of the world’s population. Illegal fishing is a threat to those livelihoods and food supplies. The impact of overfishing and unregulated fishing also poses a major threat to the marine environment. It’s vital that our fish stocks are sustainably harvested, especially when you consider that almost 30 per cent of them are already overfished. Last year, the world made a pledge to sustainably manage our marine ecosystems, end overfishing, and end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Anchors aweigh

Global Fishing Watch is an example of how data can provide the information we need to meet our environmental commitments. But as we know, simply having that data isn’t enough. It has to be presented in clear, compelling ways. The power of Global Fishing Watch is the visceral impact of seeing 35,000 fishing ships mapped onto one global map. Every day, more than 20 million data points are added to the Automatic Identification System. Each one is processed into the thousands of bright spots visible on the dark blue map. We’ve complemented this map by building a website around it that looks fantastic on desktops, tablets and mobiles, so you can use it anytime, in any plaice.

“Global Fishing Watch is innovative and unprecedented technology,” said Leonardo DiCaprio, environmental activist and actor. “We encourage all of you to take advantage of this technology.”
Each bright spot is a fishing vessel

The impact of seeing where and when the world’s fishing fleets are operating compels us to take notice and take a deeper look at what’s really happening on our oceans. We can look at the map and see that people are respecting the boundaries of marine protected areas, but also take action when they do not. The level of transparency that Global Fishing Watch provides has already inspired the Indonesian government to commit itself to making the locations of its own fishing fleet public to the world via the website. It’s also motivated a seafood traceability provider to work with Global Fishing Watch to give its customers the ability to verify that their seafood is legally and responsibly sourced.

By sparking such actions, we hope Global Fishing Watch will be a lure for other governments, agencies and organisations who want to prove their commitment to marine sustainability. At the pre-launch event for Global Fishing Watch, Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fishery Minister Ibu Susi Pujiastuti said, “I hope Global Fishing Watch can make everyone a supervisor of the oceans.” How will you show your love for our planet’s oceans?

Catch a piece of Global Fishing Watch here.

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