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News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: www.businesswire.com

BALI, Indonesia--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oceana today released a report exposing the global scale of transshipping at sea, a practice that can mask illegal fishing practices and conceal human rights abuses. The report, which was released at The Economist’s World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia, uses a new dataset released by Global Fishing Watch and Oceana’s partner SkyTruth to identify likely transshipping hotspots as well as the top countries whose vessels were involved in suspected rendezvous at sea and the ports they most frequently visited. Transshipping enables fishing vessels to remain at sea for extended periods of time. Fishing vessels and refrigerated cargo vessels rendezvous at sea in order to transfer seafood, fuel or supplies. While this transshipping practice can be legal in many cases, it also can facilitate the laundering of illegally caught fish, especially on the high seas and in waters surrounding developing and small island nations with insufficient resources to police their waters. “The practice of transshipping at sea can undermine fisheries management, threaten food security and facilitate unethical activities on our oceans,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Senior Vice President for the United States and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana. “When fishing vessels that remain at sea for many months at a time can hide the amounts of fish they are catching and selling, it makes it difficult to enforce sustainable fishing laws. This prevents fisheries managers from maintaining healthy fish populations and rebuilding those that are overfished – a necessary process especially given global food security concerns. By avoiding scrutiny at port, captains can conceal suspicious activities like illegal fishing, human rights abuses and seafood fraud. The only way to ensure an end to illicit activities on our oceans is to ban transshipping at sea, require vessel tracking for all fishing vessels and establish consistent seafood catch reporting requirements worldwide.” Oceana analyzed a new dataset released by its partner SkyTruth and Global Fishing Watch, the product of a partnership between Oceana, SkyTruth and Google, identifying 5,065 likely rendezvous of refrigerated cargo vessels with the largest commercial fishing vessels between 2012 and 2016. For a description of the dataset used to generate this map, and of the methods behind the data, see globalfishingwatch.org for SkyTruth and Global Fishing Watch’s companion report on the data analysis behind transshipment. Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With over 100 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. To learn more, visit www.oceana.org.


News Article | September 20, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

Illegal and unreported fishing is a multibillion-dollar business around the globe, and one that has proven notoriously difficult to combat. In part, that’s because it involves a constant stream of renegade fishermen being pursued by countries that have only limited resources to carry out a perpetual cat-and-mouse game on the high seas. But a new satellite-based surveillance system powered by Google, which will be publicly unveiled Thursday at a global oceans conference at the State Department, aims to help alter that equation. Global Fishing Watch, as it is called, is designed to act as an eye in the sky, constantly scouring the globe in search of those illegally plundering the oceans. The organizations that partnered to develop it, which include the marine-advocacy group Oceana and West Virginia-based nonprofit SkyTruth, say the free platform will help governments, journalists and everyday citizens monitor roughly 35,000 commercial fishing vessels nearly in real time. “We will be able to see a lot of information about who is fishing where,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. oceans at Oceana, adding that the platform will help “revolutionize the way the world views commercial fishing.” [SkyTruth, the environment and the satellite revolution] The technology uses public broadcast data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which uses satellite and land-based receivers to track the movement of ships over time. Not all fishing vessels willingly broadcast their location, of course — particularly those intent on breaking the law — and vessels can switch off their trackers, potentially hindering the usefulness of the new technology. The United States and other countries already require vessels of a certain size to use the locator system, partly as a safety measure to avoid collisions at sea, and more countries are beginning to follow suit. Global Fishing Watch allows users to access that information to track specific vessels over time, going back to 2012. Savitz said she believes the tool will have an array of uses. Governments could use it to monitor and enforce fishing restrictions in their waters. Journalists and the public can use it to search for suspicious fishing activity, such as vessel that suddenly seems to disappear or one that rarely comes to port, and to make sure officials are safeguarding marine protected areas. Insurance companies can track the vessels they insure. “We’re hoping it will be useful to a lot of different sectors,” Savitz said. The use of satellites to patrol environmental activities both on land and at sea has grown steadily in recent years. Early last year, the Pew Charitable Trusts launched a similar technology aimed at helping authorities detect and respond to pirate fishing in the oceans. Known as Project Eyes on the Seas, it was developed alongside a British company and uses various satellite tracking data to help track suspicious vessel movements of fishing ships at sea. “You can track anything in the world from anywhere in the world,” SkyTruth’s president, John Amos, whose work has helped reshape environmental watchdog efforts, told The Washington Post for a magazine story in 2013. Global Fishing Watch, which has been under development for two years, has shown flickers of success. The government of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati used it to document how a tuna-fishing vessel had operated illegally inside the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, which had been declared off-limits to commercial fishing in early 2015. The episode resulted in a $1 million fine — a large sum for such a tiny government. The new technology being unveiled Thursday is one piece of a much broader international push to reduce overfishing in the oceans and cut back in particular on illegal fishing, which can deplete fish populations, harm local habitats and have serious economic consequences. “The problem is just gigantic,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in an interview this week with The Post. “A third of the world’s fisheries are overfished, and the ones that aren’t overfished are at max, with more and more demand. Half the world’s population, basically, relies on protein from the ocean to survive. It’s an ecosystem that requires sustainability to survive, and we’re not treating it in a sustainable fashion.” Earlier this year, a first-of-its-kind international treaty designed to help stop illegal fishing entered into force after being ratified by dozens of countries. The accord, known as the Port State Measures Agreement, is aimed at improving the ability to detect illegal fishing, stop illegally caught fish from reaching ports and markets and sharing information about illicit fishing vessels among nations. Under the agreement, a country can deny ships suspected of illegal fishing entry into port or refuse to let them offload fish or refuel. Fishing vessels that want to enter a given port also must request permission ahead of time, detail what fish they have on board and verify that it was caught legally. [We’ve been protecting Earth’s land for 100 years. Only recently have we starting to protect its oceans] In addition, U.S. and international officials have been coordinating on ways to better share information in an effort to detect and halt illegal fishing around the globe, and to prosecute those involved. Officials plan to release more specifics  about those efforts at this week’s “Our Ocean” conference. At the same time, individual countries are taking their own actions. Indonesia, for example, recently sank 60 boats that it had impounded for illegally fishing in its waters, part of an aggressive campaign to deter the practice and assert sovereignty over one of its key resources. Kerry said both new technologies and more aggressive efforts to fight the problem are essential, because demand for fish will continue to increase as populations grow and massive numbers of people in countries such as China and India escape poverty. For the oceans to continue to provide food and livelihoods for billions of people each day, he said, the world has to treat them like the fragile resource they are. “We have to find a way to enforce [fishing laws]. We have to find a way to monitor it. And that’s very difficult in vast oceans with resources that are [limited],” Kerry said, adding, “We’re trying to create accountability where there is very little. You can’t have impunity on this and expect to win this battle.” We’re trashing the oceans — and they’re returning the favor by making us sick As sea levels rise, nearly 1.9 million U.S. homes could be underwater by 2100 What the ‘sixth extinction’ will look like in the oceans: The largest species die off first For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.


News Article | September 15, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

Illegal and unreported fishing is a multibillion-dollar business around the globe, and one that has proven notoriously difficult to combat. In part, that’s because it involves a constant stream of renegade fishermen being pursued by countries that have only limited resources to carry out a perpetual cat-and-mouse game on the high seas. But a new satellite-based surveillance system powered by Google, which will be publicly unveiled Thursday at a global oceans conference at the State Department, aims to help alter that equation. Global Fishing Watch, as it is called, is designed to act as an eye in the sky, constantly scouring the globe in search of those illegally plundering the oceans. The organizations that partnered to develop it, which include the marine-advocacy group Oceana and West Virginia-based nonprofit SkyTruth, say the free platform will help governments, journalists and everyday citizens monitor roughly 35,000 commercial fishing vessels nearly in real time. “We will be able to see a lot of information about who is fishing where,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. oceans at Oceana, adding that the platform will help “revolutionize the way the world views commercial fishing.” [SkyTruth, the environment and the satellite revolution] The technology uses public broadcast data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which uses satellite and land-based receivers to track the movement of ships over time. Not all fishing vessels willingly broadcast their location, of course — particularly those intent on breaking the law — and vessels can switch off their trackers, potentially hindering the usefulness of the new technology. The United States and other countries already require vessels of a certain size to use the locator system, partly as a safety measure to avoid collisions at sea, and more countries are beginning to follow suit. Global Fishing Watch allows users to access that information to track specific vessels over time, going back to 2012. Savitz said she believes the tool will have an array of uses. Governments could use it to monitor and enforce fishing restrictions in their waters. Journalists and the public can use it to search for suspicious fishing activity, such as vessel that suddenly seems to disappear or one that rarely comes to port, and to make sure officials are safeguarding marine protected areas. Insurance companies can track the vessels they insure. “We’re hoping it will be useful to a lot of different sectors,” Savitz said. The use of satellites to patrol environmental activities both on land and at sea has grown steadily in recent years. Early last year, the Pew Charitable Trusts launched a similar technology aimed at helping authorities detect and respond to pirate fishing in the oceans. Known as Project Eyes on the Seas, it was developed alongside a British company and uses various satellite tracking data to help track suspicious vessel movements of fishing ships at sea. “You can track anything in the world from anywhere in the world,” SkyTruth’s president, John Amos, whose work has helped reshape environmental watchdog efforts, told The Washington Post for a magazine story in 2013. Global Fishing Watch, which has been under development for two years, has shown flickers of success. The government of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati used it to document how a tuna-fishing vessel had operated illegally inside the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, which had been declared off-limits to commercial fishing in early 2015. The episode resulted in a $1 million fine — a large sum for such a tiny government. The new technology being unveiled Thursday is one piece of a much broader international push to reduce overfishing in the oceans and cut back in particular on illegal fishing, which can deplete fish populations, harm local habitats and have serious economic consequences. “The problem is just gigantic,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in an interview this week with The Post. “A third of the world’s fisheries are overfished, and the ones that aren’t overfished are at max, with more and more demand. Half the world’s population, basically, relies on protein from the ocean to survive. It’s an ecosystem that requires sustainability to survive, and we’re not treating it in a sustainable fashion.” Earlier this year, a first-of-its-kind international treaty designed to help stop illegal fishing entered into force after being ratified by dozens of countries. The accord, known as the Port State Measures Agreement, is aimed at improving the ability to detect illegal fishing, stop illegally caught fish from reaching ports and markets and sharing information about illicit fishing vessels among nations. Under the agreement, a country can deny ships suspected of illegal fishing entry into port or refuse to let them offload fish or refuel. Fishing vessels that want to enter a given port also must request permission ahead of time, detail what fish they have on board and verify that it was caught legally. [We’ve been protecting Earth’s land for 100 years. Only recently have we starting to protect its oceans] In addition, U.S. and international officials have been coordinating on ways to better share information in an effort to detect and halt illegal fishing around the globe, and to prosecute those involved. Officials plan to release more specifics  about those efforts at this week’s “Our Ocean” conference. At the same time, individual countries are taking their own actions. Indonesia, for example, recently sank 60 boats that it had impounded for illegally fishing in its waters, part of an aggressive campaign to deter the practice and assert sovereignty over one of its key resources. Kerry said both new technologies and more aggressive efforts to fight the problem are essential, because demand for fish will continue to increase as populations grow and massive numbers of people in countries such as China and India escape poverty. For the oceans to continue to provide food and livelihoods for billions of people each day, he said, the world has to treat them like the fragile resource they are. “We have to find a way to enforce [fishing laws]. We have to find a way to monitor it. And that’s very difficult in vast oceans with resources that are [limited],” Kerry said, adding, “We’re trying to create accountability where there is very little. You can’t have impunity on this and expect to win this battle.” We’re trashing the oceans — and they’re returning the favor by making us sick As sea levels rise, nearly 1.9 million U.S. homes could be underwater by 2100 What the ‘sixth extinction’ will look like in the oceans: The largest species die off first For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.


News Article | November 20, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

Facial recognition software is most commonly known as a tool to help police identify a suspected criminal by using machine learning algorithms to analyze his or her face against a database of thousands or millions of other faces. The larger the database, with a greater variety of facial features, the smarter and more successful the software becomes – effectively learning from its mistakes to improve its accuracy. Now, this type of artificial intelligence is starting to be used in fighting a specific but pervasive type of crime – illegal fishing. Rather than picking out faces, the software tracks the movement of fishing boats to root out illegal behavior. And soon, using a twist on facial recognition, it may be able to recognize when a boat’s haul includes endangered and protected fish. The latest effort to use artificial intelligence to fight illegal fishing is coming from Virginia-based The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which launched a contest on Kaggle – a crowdsourcing site based in San Francisco that uses competitions to advance data science –earlier this week. TNC hopes the winning team will write software to identify specific species of fish. The program will run on cameras, called electronic monitors, which are installed on fishing boats and used for documenting the catch. The software will put a marker at each point in the video when a protected fish is hauled in. Inspectors, who currently spend up to six hours manually reviewing a single 10-hour fishing day, will then be able to go directly to those moments and check a fishing crew’s subsequent actions to determine whether they handled the bycatch legally – by making best efforts to return it to the sea unharmed. TNC expects this approach could cut review time by up to 40% and increase the monitoring on a boat. Despite rules that call for government-approved auditors to be stationed on 5% of commercial fishing boats in the Western and Central Pacific, in practice the auditors are found only around 2% of the fishing boats, including tuna long liners. As a result, fishermen sometimes keep protected fish that they hook – including sharks that are killed for their lucrative fins. In the Pacific’s $7bn tuna fishery, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing not only harms fragile fish stocks, it takes an economic toll of up to $1.5bn. The impact shows up many ways, including lost income for fishermen in the legal marketplace and harm to the tourist economy that sells snorkelers and divers the opportunity to witness protected species in the wild. Worldwide, cost estimates related to IUU reach $23bn annually, and the take represents up to 20% of all seafood. Using technology to track and prevent illegal fishing presents an opportunity for technology companies as the fishing industry seeks ways to comply with the growing demand for transparency from governments and consumers. “If using facial recognition software to track fish were easy, we’d already be using it,” says Matthew Merrifield, TNC’s chief technology officer. Whereas images from security cameras installed inside banks or other buildings are consistent and predictable, “the data from (electronic monitoring) cameras on boats is dirty, because the ships are always moving and the light keeps changing”. Because of the “dirty” data, it will not be easy to write a facial recognition software that can accurately spot protected species when the variable conditions on the high seas could lead to blurry images on the video. Given those challenges, it’s too early to know how large this market will grow, or how quickly. While the use of artificial intelligence to reduce illegal catch is relatively new, the Kaggle contest isn’t the first time it is being applied to the fishing industry. San Francisco-based startup Pelagic Data Systems (PDS) has developed technology that illuminates the activity of some of the 4.6m small-scale commercial fishing boats that ply coastal waters around the world. Using data from a UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization report, PDS estimates that roughly 95% of those boats don’t have the types of communications and tracking radios that larger boats are required to have, partly because the boats are too small or lack the power source to run the radios. PDS installs a solar powered radio with an integrated GPS receiver and cellular modem on boats. The company collects the location data and analyzes it to create a map to show where the boat traveled and deduce its activities, such as where it stopped to set out nets or other gear and where and for how long it hauled in a catch. This data is vital because it shows whether the boat fished inside or outside marine protected areas. The device doesn’t have an on/off switch, a design to prevent a fishing crew from tampering with data collection. The software also generates heat maps to indicate where the heaviest fishing activities are taking place within a coastal region. By pairing that data with the movements of the boats, PDS can also estimate the quantity and even the size of the fish pulled from those waters, says Dave Solomon, CEO of PDS. The company sells its technology to governments, nonprofits, academic researchers and companies in the fishing industry, and expects the number of boats installed with its device to reach 1,000 in regions such as West Africa, North America and Mexico by the end of the year, Solomon says. Some of his customers install the devices in the boats of their suppliers for another reason: to win over customers by demonstrating transparency in fishing practices. Another effort to use data to fight illegal fishing comes from the nonprofit SkyTruth, which tracks the movement of large ships by mining data broadcast by ships and collected by satellites. Its technology is used by Global Fishing Watch, which is backed by Google, Oceana and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. SkyTruth’s data helped the island nation Kirbati to bust illegal fishing operations. But Kaggle has a habit of taking on unusual technical challenges. Earlier this year, it launched a contest with State Farm to develop machine learning software, to be embedded in dashboard cameras, to classify a driver’s behavior, such as being distracted by a smartphone when behind the wheel. Kaggle, with a membership of 650,000 data scientists, hasn’t tackled an environmental problem before. But its CEO, Anthony Goldbloom, thinks the TNC contest could represent the start of environmental competitions on its site because scientists from government agencies and academic institutions are collecting a growing amount of field data using cameras and sensors. TNC contest attracted 44 teams within the first day. Each team has five months to submit its software. While the contest presents an appealing opportunity to do something good for the environment, it doesn’t promise a big payoff. That will make it difficult for software developers and data scientists to raise venture capital to fund their efforts. “Silicon Valley only invests in places with big money [potential],” says Andrew Bosworth, vice president of ads and business platform for Facebook and a board member of land conservation group Peninsula Open Space Trust. “Plus, everyone underestimates [environmental] challenges. Going to the moon is easier than tracking fishing. It really is. So these are big challenges without financial incentives to solve them.” But, he adds, Silicon Valley does provide important undergirding for using technology to solve environmental problems. Bosworth argues that the advancement in core technologies behind things like multiplayer gaming software and smartphone apps has propelled the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence and lowered the development costs over time. The winning team of the contest will earn a prize of $150,000. Then, as part of its campaign to reduce bycatch and illegal fishing in the region, TNC will work with the governments of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands to install the software, for free, on the electronic monitors of selected fishing boats. If the software proves effective in reducing the labor costs and improving the accuracy of identifying protected species, then it could become a standard feature in electronic monitors. TNC will own the intellectual property of the winning software and make it free to the equipment makers, which include Satlink and Archipelago. The software could become even more widely used if large retailers such as Walmart begin to require electronic monitors on their vendor’s fleets. But it is still early days for policing the fishing industry. For Melissa Garren, chief scientific officer of PDS, that means the market potential is huge. “We should be treating the oceans more like we treat airspace,” she says. “If we had this lack of visibility in the skies, it would be nuts.”


Today, with the release of our report, The Global View of Transshipment: Preliminary Findings, we present the first-ever global footprint of transshipment in the fishing industry. The report explains how data scientists from SkyTruth and Global Fishing Watch (a partnership of Oceana, SkyTruth and Google) analyzed Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships at sea to developed a tool to identify and track 90 percent of the world's large refrigerated cargo vessels, ships that collect catch from multiple fishing boats at sea and carry it to port. According to the analysis, from 2012 through 2016, refrigerated cargo vessels, known as "reefers," participated in more than 5,000 likely transshipments (instances in which they rendezvoused with an AIS-broadcasting fishing vessel and drifted long enough to receive a catch). In addition, the data revealed more than 86,000 potential transshipments in which reefers exhibited transshipment-like behavior, but there were no corresponding AIS signals from fishing vessels. Brian Sullivan, Google's lead for Global Fishing Watch, will present the findings at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Indonesia today. The report, along with the underlying data and our list of likely and suspected transshipments, will be freely available on our website, globalfishingwatch.org. The global scale of transshipment and its ability to facilitate suspicious activity, such as illegal fishing and human rights abuses, is exposed in a complementary report being issued today by our partners at Oceana. The opportunity for mixing legal and illegal catch during the collection of fish from multiple fishing boats provides an easy route for illegal players to get their product to market. This obscures the seafood supply chain from hook to port and hobbles efforts at sustainability because it prevents an accurate measurement of the amount of marine life being taken from the sea. Among the many findings, Global Fishing Watch data documents that transshipment in offshore coastal waters is more common in regions with a high proportion of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing than in regions where management is strong such as in North America and Europe. The data also revealed clusters of transshipment along the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of some countries, and inside those zones of nations rated strongly for corruption and having limited monitoring capabilities. "These correlations do not provide any proof of specific illegal behavior," says Global Fishing Watch Research Program Director, David Kroodsma, and lead author on the report, "but they raise important questions and can lead to more informed international efforts by fisheries management organizations to prevent or better regulate transshipment." According to Oceana's report, three of the top eight countries visited by reefers have not yet ratified an international treaty meant to eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and therefore may have weaker regulations that would make it easier for illegally caught fish to enter the global marketplace. The report calls for the banning of transshipment at sea and expanded mandates for unique identifiers and vessel tracking for fishing vessels. The new analytical tools SkyTruth and Global Fishing Watch have developed using public domain AIS data can enable fisheries managers to identify and monitor transshipment anywhere in the world, permanently lifting the veil from the previously invisible practice of transshipment. The results were obtained through an analysis of over 21 billion satellite signals from Automatic Identification System messages broadcast by ocean-going vessels between 2012 and 2016. Using an artificial intelligence system developed by Global Fishing Watch, Kroodsma's team identified refrigerated cargo vessels based on their movement patterns. Verifying their results with confirmed fishery registries and open source online resources, they identified 794 reefers. That represents 90 percent of the world's reefer vessels identified in 2010 according to the US Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Through further analysis, they mapped 5065 instances in which a reefer and a fishing vessel were moving at a certain speed within a certain proximity to one another for a certain length of time.) Our algorithm was verified by matching a subset of these "likely transshipments" to known transshipments recorded by fishing registries. The data also revealed 86,490 potential transshipments, instances in which reefers that appeared to be alone traveled in a pattern and at a speed consistent with transshipment. Their activity cannot be verified, but given that many fishing vessels turn off their AIS device when they do not want to be detected, and some fishing vessels do not have AIS, these events must be considered potential transshipments. Explore further: Ships flagged for illegal fishing still able to get insurance, study finds


News Article | November 28, 2016
Site: www.sej.org

"“It means that there’s nobody really watching. There’s no entity out there day by day making sure these problems are dealt with.” " "Recent discoveries of illegal, unreported oil discharges and systematic dumping of chemicals from rigs and platforms have raised new fears about environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico, more than six years after the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Tracking of federal data by the environmental watchdog group SkyTruth shows more than 11,700 oil spills have been reported in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil spill ended in July 2010. But the rate of spills also has slowed significantly, from 245 a month in 2012 to 80 in October 2016."


News Article | March 10, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

Over the last century, ocean biodiversity has been obliterated by overfishing and industrialization, resulting in a looming mass extinction event in the seas. Though several enormous marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established, poachers are still slipping through the cracks, undermining crucial attempts to stop the ecological freefall occurring in marine environments. Fortunately, a team led by UC Santa Barbara ecologist Douglas McCauley has suggested an innovative solution to this problem that merges Big Data, citizen science, and conservation. In a paper published today in the journal Science, McCauley and his co-authors argue that using automatic identification systems (AIS), which are navigational aids that use satellite tracking to prevent ship collisions, could be the key to keeping fishing vessels honest. “Every 16-year-old in the US that wants to drive a car gets assigned a number,” McCauley told me via email. “It troubles me that we don't care to apply the same standards to an industry that will control the fate of ocean biodiversity, food security, public health, and billion dollar coastal economies.” Indeed, despite the widespread use of these AIS trackers, McCauley’s team points out that in 2014, only 3.5 percent of self-identified fishing vessels reported a valid identification code—called an International Maritime Organization (IMO) number—via AIS, demonstrating a shocking lack of accountability at sea. Fishing activity in the global oceans has reached such high densities that tracks of fishermen map out the world in reverse. This map displays fishing vessel data from 2015 alone. Image: Douglas McCauley The problem is not so much that fishing crews are nefarious opportunists angling to exploit marine preserves, but rather that there is simply no real incentive for them to broadcast their IMO numbers—or even to register them in the first place. “The IMO allows large fishing vessels to voluntarily sign up for an IMO number,” McCauley said. “Nobody I know voluntary signs up for an ID number.” “Vessels may be required by local law to carry AIS,” he added, “but nobody checks whether they register the system properly and fill out all the optional data fields. Who among us fills in those boxes in online forms unless they are required? We need to change policy that requires an IMO ID be attached to these AIS feeds.” In other words, the global maritime community has barely even begun to harness the broader potential of AIS as a powerful conservation tool, as well as a means to collect enormous amounts of data about ongoing activity in our oceans. What’s more, because AIS data is broadcast publicly, it can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. Projects like Global Fishing Watch, an interactive fishing tracking service spearheaded by Google, SkyTruth, and Oceana, aim to increase the role of the average citizen in ocean advocacy by providing them with the tools to monitor fishing vessels. “This democratization of ocean observation is key,” McCauley told me. “People often talk about ocean health being wrecked by the tragedy of the commons (i.e. if you don't catch that last fish, someone else will). I think if we can empower people to watch this tragedy unfold on their phones, we can break this cycle.” “I'm a fisherman,” he continued. “I believe in the importance of fishing. I think 99.9 percent of the fishermen out there are doing the right thing because they want to be able to turn their wheelhouses over to their kids. I think the small number of bad actors out there will behave more responsibly if they know NGOs, soccer dads, surfers, and politicians are watching their behavior.” Beyond illegal fishing, broader AIS compliance would also lend more accountability to the underwater industrial revolution, which includes disruptive activities like seabed mining. It also has the potential to reduce collisions between ships and whales, and to inform scientists about the optimal routes ships should take in order to avoid interfering with the ocean’s most vulnerable ecosystems. At this point, the main argument against the adoption of large scale AIS tracking is that it would infringe on the privacy of industries that harvest ocean resources. But for McCauley and his colleagues, commercial privacy concerns are dramatically outweighed by the alarming collapse of marine biodiversity, and all the ominous consequences that will have for the future of our own species. “In Moby Dick, Melville writes about ships leaving part and being swallowed up by the anonymity of the sea,” McCauley said. “That no longer seems very romantic when the price of protecting privacy at sea means that food and money is stolen via illegal fishing from poor countries, that the future of amazing animals like sharks and sea turtles is put at risk, and that we can't stop all kinds of social injustice that happens at sea.”


News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Transshipment, the transfer of goods from one boat to another, is a major pathway for illegally caught and unreported fish to enter the global seafood market. It has also been associated with drug smuggling and slave labor. Illegal in many cases, transshipment has been largely invisible and nearly impossible to manage, because it often occurs far from shore and out of sight. Until now. Today, with the release of our report, The Global View of Transshipment: Preliminary Findings, we present the first-ever global footprint of transshipment in the fishing industry. The report explains how data scientists from SkyTruth and Global Fishing Watch (a partnership of Oceana, SkyTruth and Google) analyzed Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships at sea to developed a tool to identify and track 90 percent of the world's large refrigerated cargo vessels, ships that collect catch from multiple fishing boats at sea and carry it to port. According to the analysis, from 2012 through 2016, refrigerated cargo vessels, known as "reefers," participated in more than 5,000 likely transshipments (instances in which they rendezvoused with an AIS-broadcasting fishing vessel and drifted long enough to receive a catch). In addition, the data revealed more than 86,000 potential transshipments in which reefers exhibited transshipment-like behavior, but there were no corresponding AIS signals from fishing vessels. Brian Sullivan, Google's lead for Global Fishing Watch, will present the findings at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Indonesia today. The report, along with the underlying data and our list of likely and suspected transshipments, will be freely available on our website, globalfishingwatch.org. The global scale of transshipment and its ability to facilitate suspicious activity, such as illegal fishing and human rights abuses, is exposed in a complementary report being issued today by our partners at Oceana. The opportunity for mixing legal and illegal catch during the collection of fish from multiple fishing boats provides an easy route for illegal players to get their product to market. This obscures the seafood supply chain from hook to port and hobbles efforts at sustainability because it prevents an accurate measurement of the amount of marine life being taken from the sea. Among the many findings, Global Fishing Watch data documents that transshipment in offshore coastal waters is more common in regions with a high proportion of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing than in regions where management is strong such as in North America and Europe. The data also revealed clusters of transshipment along the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of some countries, and inside those zones of nations rated strongly for corruption and having limited monitoring capabilities. "These correlations do not provide any proof of specific illegal behavior," says Global Fishing Watch Research Program Director, David Kroodsma, and lead author on the report, "but they raise important questions and can lead to more informed international efforts by fisheries management organizations to prevent or better regulate transshipment." According to Oceana's report, three of the top eight countries visited by reefers have not yet ratified an international treaty meant to eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and therefore may have weaker regulations that would make it easier for illegally caught fish to enter the global marketplace. The report calls for the banning of transshipment at sea and expanded mandates for unique identifiers and vessel tracking for fishing vessels. The new analytical tools SkyTruth and Global Fishing Watch have developed using public domain AIS data can enable fisheries managers to identify and monitor transshipment anywhere in the world, permanently lifting the veil from the previously invisible practice of transshipment. The results were obtained through an analysis of over 21 billion satellite signals from Automatic Identification System messages broadcast by ocean-going vessels between 2012 and 2016. Using an artificial intelligence system developed by Global Fishing Watch, Kroodsma's team identified refrigerated cargo vessels based on their movement patterns. Verifying their results with confirmed fishery registries and open source online resources, they identified 794 reefers. That represents 90 percent of the world's reefer vessels identified in 2010 according to the US Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Through further analysis, they mapped 5065 instances in which a reefer and a fishing vessel were moving at a certain speed within a certain proximity to one another for a certain length of time.) Our algorithm was verified by matching a subset of these "likely transshipments" to known transshipments recorded by fishing registries. The data also revealed 86,490 potential transshipments, instances in which reefers that appeared to be alone traveled in a pattern and at a speed consistent with transshipment. Their activity cannot be verified, but given that many fishing vessels turn off their AIS device when they do not want to be detected, and some fishing vessels do not have AIS, these events must be considered potential transshipments. This work was supported by a grant to SkyTruth from the Walton Family Foundation and made possible by Google through the in-kind use of Google's cloud computing platforms and technical and project guidance. The free report and associated datasets will be available at http://GlobalFishingWatch. . Images will be available online here: http://blog. Learn more about Ocean's transshipment report here: http://www. Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world's wild fish catch. With over 100 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana's campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. To learn more, visit http://usa. . SkyTruth is a nonprofit organization using remote sensing and digital mapping to create stunning images that expose the environmental impact of natural resource extraction and other human activities. We use satellite imagery and geospatial data to create compelling and scientifically credible visuals and resources to inform environmental advocates, policy-makers, the media, and the public. To learn more, visit SkyTruth.org. Google Earth Outreach is a team dedicated to leveraging and developing Google's infrastructure to address environmental and humanitarian issues through partnerships with non-profits, educational institutions, and research groups. To learn more, visit earth.google.com/outreach. *Global Fishing Watch analyzes Automatic Identification System (AIS) data collected from vessels that our research has identified as known or possible commercial fishing vessels, and applies a fishing detection algorithm to determine "apparent fishing activity" based on changes in vessel speed and direction. As AIS data varies in completeness, accuracy and quality, it is possible that some fishing activity is not identified as such by Global Fishing Watch; conversely, Global Fishing Watch may show apparent fishing activity where fishing is not actually taking place. For these reasons, Global Fishing Watch qualifies all designations of vessel fishing activity, including synonyms of the term "fishing activity," such as "fishing" or "fishing effort," as "apparent," rather than certain. Any/all Global Fishing Watch information about "apparent fishing activity" should be considered an estimate and must be relied upon solely at your own risk.


News Article | September 18, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

The shrimp in your salad or tuna on your plate may have been caught illegally in areas threatened by overfishing. But tracing suspect seafood is a tricky task, given that many boats operate in unseen swaths of the ocean. Global Fishing Watch, a new project from Oceana, SkyTruth and Google, aims to crack down on illegal fishing by training the watchful eye of surveillance satellites on the world's approximately 35,000 commercial fishing vessels. SEE ALSO: Marine conservation efforts just took a major step forward The online technology platform collects more than 22 million data points per day from hundreds of thousands of ships. The free tool, still in its beta phase, lets anybody monitor and track activities of large commercial fishing vessels in near real time. Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor/activist, unveiled Global Fishing Watch last week at the third annual Our Ocean Conference in Washington, D.C. "This platform will empower citizens across the globe to become powerful advocates for our oceans," he said on Sept. 15 at the two-day summit. More than 85 percent of the world's fisheries are reaching their biological limits due to overfishing, the World Wildlife Fund has estimated. Several popular commercial fish species, like the Atlantic bluefin tuna, have declined so much that their survival is threatened. "Warming waters, acidification, plastic pollution, methane release, drilling, overfishing, and the destruction of marine ecosystems like coral reefs are pushing our oceans to the very brink," DiCaprio said. "The only way we can avert this disaster is by ... scaling up innovative actions and solutions to these problems as quickly as possible," he said. Global Fishing Watch gathers data from vessels' Automatic Identification System (AIS), which boat captains use to broadcast their position, course and speed to nearby ships, base stations and satellites. The surveillance platform uses cloud computing and machine learning to process satellite AIS data and identify which vessels are fishing boats. It then logs when and where those vessels are fishing. The tracker is regularly updated to show vessel tracks and fishing activity from Jan. 1, 2012 through the present, although it operates on a three-day delay. "It will allow governments to track suspicious vessels, enforce rules and reduce seafood fraud," Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana, a global ocean advocacy group, said in a statement. "Journalists and everyday citizens will be able to identify behavior that may be related to illegal fishing or overfishing," she added. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the Our Oceans Conference, which joined diplomats, scientists and conservation groups from around the world to discuss steps to protect oceans from threats such as human-caused climate change, pollution and overfishing. During the summit, countries announced plans to create more than 40 significant new or expanded Marine Protected Areas — including the first U.S. marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean President Barack Obama last week designated over 4,900 square miles off the coast of New England as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.  The action comes just weeks after Obama quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea marine monument near Hawaii. The area now encompasses nearly 583,000 square miles — twice the size of Texas. "Our conservation efforts and our obligations to combat climate change in fact go hand in hand, because marine areas already have enough to worry about, with overfishing and ship traffic and pollution," Obama said Sept. 15 in a special address at the summit. "A healthier ocean and a healthier planet are about more than just our environment," the president added. "They are also vital to our foreign policy and to our national security." Conservationists say Marine Protected Areas are needed to spare the oceans from further destruction and keep ecosystems healthy enough to adapt to warming and acidifying waters caused by climate change. The movement took a significant step forward earlier this month when governments and global organizations adopted a measure to protect 30 percent of the world's oceans by 2030. As of now, only about 4 percent of oceans are protected, even including the latest additions announced in Washington. The view from Air Force One, with U.S. President Barack Obama aboard, as the airplane approaches Midway Atoll in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Sept. 1, 2016. Global foundations and conservation groups last week pledged a combined $5.3 billion to help protect marine ecosystems, prevent pollution and combat climate change.  The Wildlife Conservation Society, Waitt Foundation, blue moon fund and Global Environment Facility together committed $48 million specifically for expanding and managing Marine Protected Areas. "The oceans are our future, and this new fund represents a commitment to safeguarding this invaluable resource," Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement.


News Article | September 20, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

Speaking to representatives from dozens of countries gathered in Washington for the third annual Our Ocean conference, President Obama said Thursday that it was urgent that leaders take swift, bold action to safeguard oceans around the globe. “We cannot truly protect our planet without protecting our ocean,” the president said, adding that the U.S. and others had begun to address threats such as climate change and overfishing. “But it’s no secret that we’re going to have to do a lot more, and we’re going to have to do it fast.” Obama listed several of the steps he had taken while in office to promote conservation, including his move Thursday to create the first-ever marine national monument in the U.S. Atlantic. He described the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which lies 130 miles off the southeast coast of Cape Cod, as one that balances environmental safeguards with those for local fishing interests. “We’re protecting fragile ecosystems off the coast of New England, including pristine underseas canyons and seamounts. We’re helping make the oceans more resilient to climate change,” he said. “And this will help fishermen better understand the changes that are taking place that will affect their livelihood, and we’re doing it in a way that respects the fishing industry’s unique role in New England’s economy and history.” [Obama creates the first-ever marine national monument in the U.S. Atlantic, in New England] But he also framed his commitment to the sea in highly personal terms, speaking about both his childhood growing up in Hawaii as well as his recent visit to Midway Atoll. Late last month, he expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which includes Midway, making it the largest protected area on the planet. “I grew up in Hawaii. The ocean’s really nice there,” he said. “And the notion that the ocean I grew up with is not something that I can pass on to my kids and my grandkids is unacceptable.  It’s unimaginable.” Recalling his Sept. 1 visit to Midway, Obama described how he observed Hawaiian green sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach (“It turns out they like sun when we’re not overcrowding the beaches”) and the fact that while snorkeling, he gazed not only at purple and orange coral but a nearby monk seal that dived into the water. “And that, too, was a great cause for optimism because it reminded us that nature is actually resilient if we take care to just stop actively destroying it — that it will come back,” he said. “And certainly the oceans can come back if we take the steps that are necessary. I saw it. It was right there — evidence of the incredible power of nature to rebuild itself if we’re not consistently trying to tear it down.” [Obama’s field trip to Midway Atoll, one of his grandest gestures yet] Not all Americans share Obama’s enthusiasm for restricting commercial activities in the sea. Eric Reid, general manager at a fish-processing plant in Point Judith, R.I., said in an email that the president’s use of executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act will reverberate in New England long after he’s left office. “Today President Obama has declared the first marine monument in the Atlantic ocean,” Reid said. “He will only have to live with the intended and unintended consequences of his actions for 127 days.  The industry will suffer these same disastrous consequences forever.” A slew of countries and nonprofit groups also announced new commitments Thursday as part of the conference, including a $48 million pledge by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Waitt Foundation, the Blue Moon Fund and the Global Environment Facility to support the expansion and establishment of new marine protected areas worldwide. Separately, a coalition launched a new satellite-based surveillance system Thursday called Global Fishing Watch, which is powered by Google and will scour the globe at all hours to spot those illegally plundering the oceans. The organizations that partnered to develop it, which include the marine-advocacy group Oceana and West Virginia-based nonprofit SkyTruth, say the free platform will help governments, journalists and everyday citizens monitor roughly 35,000 commercial fishing vessels nearly in real time. From space, a new effort to crack down on illegal fishing across the globe Obama to designate the first-ever marine monument off the East Coast, in New England We’ve been protecting Earth’s land for 100 years. We’re finally starting to protect its oceans For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.

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