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News Article | April 27, 2017
Site: www.fastcompany.com

In the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 17% of U.S. crude oil production, appetite for drilling is ticking up amid President Trump’s drive for energy deregulation. In late March, the Department of Interior auctioned off over 900,000 acres of leases in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf for $275 million, up from $156 million last year. That might be worrisome, given that the area is still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon spill, but don’t worry: The oil industry often contends that, barring the occasional mega-disaster, offshore drilling is by and large a safe, if not overregulated, practice. However, according to a new report from three Louisiana-based environmental groups, offshore oil accidents in the Gulf of Mexico are a more regular and serious occurrence than the industry is willing to admit. The report—released in March by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 350 Louisiana, and Disastermap.net—pulled directly from a Coast Guard data clearinghouse and found 479 reports of offshore oil accidents in the northern Gulf in 2016. That’s an average of about nine spills per week, dumping a total of nearly 18,000 gallons of oil and other substances into the environment. Compared to the size of the 2010 BP disaster, which released anywhere from 134 million to 176 million gallons, that might seem small. But even that 18,000 gallon estimate could be seriously lowballed, say report authors. The Coast Guard data, collected under the National Response Center (NRC), is actually self-reported by the oil companies responsible (the NRC also accepts reports from the public, but these are less common). “When is the last time you told a police officer you were speeding?” asks Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental activist group and one of the March report’s authors. “There’s no doubt there are a lot more accidents than we know about.” To find a more independent estimate of the scope of daily oil spills, the report’s authors drew on an analysis of that same NRC data by , a nonprofit that uses satellite imagery—mainly from the European Space Agency, one of the few free resources—to monitor the environmental effects of industrial activity. Using SkyTruth’s numbers, report authors say the total amount of oil spilled in the northern Gulf last year was closer to 875,000 gallons, or about 50 times larger than official estimates. SkyTruth, which also analyzes impact of mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia and tracks commercial fishing activity around the world, has neither the ability nor bandwidth to analyze every single oil spill from space. Contrary to popular belief, says John Amos, president and founder of SkyTruth, satellite and radar imagery simply doesn’t exist for everywhere on Earth at all times. Even if it did, the organization’s small team wouldn’t be able to keep up with the thousands of accidents that occur every year. Instead, the company has developed a formula that acts as a second opinion to the self-reporting of polluting companies. Any time an accident occurs, oil companies are required to report an estimate of the aerial dimensions of the spill. Because reporting on total volume spilled is, shall we say, inconsistent, SkyTruth comes up with its own volume estimate. First, it assumes that 100% of the reported area is covered in oil—in other words, there are no holes in surface coverage inside the spill zone. Second, it assumes that any spill observable from space is at least one micron (one thousandth of a millimeter) thick. As a general rule, satellite imagery is only able to pick up spills at least one-tenth of a micron thick, but that is under test conditions, not the open ocean. Amos concedes this is an imperfect science. But, he says, neither the organization’s methods nor analyses have ever been challenged.


"An organization called SkyTruth is monitoring drilling companies for drastically underestimating the amount of oil they spill into the ocean." "In the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 17% of U.S. crude oil production, appetite for drilling is ticking up amid President Trump’s drive for energy deregulation. In late March, the Department of Interior auctioned off over 900,000 acres of leases in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf for $275 million, up from $156 million last year. That might be worrisome, given that the area is still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon spill, but don’t worry: The oil industry often contends that, barring the occasional mega-disaster, offshore drilling is by and large a safe, if not overregulated, practice. However, according to a new report from three Louisiana-based environmental groups, offshore oil accidents in the Gulf of Mexico are a more regular and serious occurrence than the industry is willing to admit. The report—released in March by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 350 Louisiana, and Disastermap.net—pulled directly from a Coast Guard data clearinghouse and found 479 reports of offshore oil accidents in the northern Gulf in 2016. That’s an average of about nine spills per week, dumping a total of nearly 18,000 gallons of oil and other substances into the environment. Compared to the size of the 2010 BP disaster, which released anywhere from 134 million to 176 million gallons, that might seem small. But even that 18,000 gallon estimate could be seriously lowballed, say report authors. The Coast Guard data, collected under the National Response Center (NRC), is actually self-reported by the oil companies responsible (the NRC also accepts reports from the public, but these are less common)."


The first public sharing of government data marks a victory for transparency in an opaque industry where research and sustainable management have suffered from a lack of information on where fishing happens and how fishers interact with ocean resources NEW YORK: This week, at the United Nation's Ocean Conference, the Republic of Indonesia becomes the first nation ever to publish Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data revealing the location and activity of its commercial fishing fleet. The new data being made public on the Global Fishing Watch public mapping platform reveals commercial fishing in Indonesian waters and areas of the Indian Ocean where it had previously been invisible to the public and other nations. Susi Pudjiastuti, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs for the Republic of Indonesia, is taking a bold step toward increasing transparency in her country's fishing industry. Today she urges other nations to do the same. "Illegal fishing is an international problem, and countering it requires cross border cooperation between countries," says Minister Susi. "I urge all nations to join me in sharing their vessel monitoring data with Global Fishing Watch. Together, we can begin a new era in transparency to end illegal and unreported fishing." Also at the UN Ocean's Conference, Global Fishing Watch has committed to host any country's VMS data, calling on other governments to follow Indonesia's lead. "We believe publicly shared VMS will become a powerful new standard for transparent operation in commercial fishing," says Paul Woods, Global Fishing Watch CEO and Chief Technology Officer for SkyTruth, a founding partner of Global Fishing Watch along with Oceana and Google. "SkyTruth has been collaborating with the Indonesian government for the past two years to really understand their VMS data and find new ways for VMS to enhance their fisheries management." Working closely with Oceana toward a united goal of transparency at sea, Peru becomes the first nation to follow Indonesia's lead. Vice Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hector Soldi, announced Peru's intent to publicly share their VMS data in Global Fishing Watch. "We applaud the commitments made by Peru and Indonesia to publish their previously private vessel tracking data and encourage other countries to follow their lead," said Jacqueline Savitz, Senior Vice President for the United States and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana. "Together, with forward-thinking governments like these, we can bring even greater transparency to the oceans. By publishing fishing data and using Global Fishing Watch, governments and citizens can unite to help combat illegal fishing worldwide. With more eyes on the ocean, there are fewer places for illegal fishers to hide." Global Fishing Watch uses publicly broadcast Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships at sea to reveal the activity of the majority of all industrial-sized commercial fishing vessels (those exceeding a capacity of 100 Gross Tons which average around 24 meters). The inclusion of government-owned VMS data adds detailed information on smaller commercial fishing vessels that are not required to carry AIS, and are therefore not reliably trackable by any other means. Indonesian regulations require VMS on fishing vessels with a capacity equal to or exceeding 30 Gross Tons (averaging about 16 meters or more). Indonesia is the second-largest producer of wild-caught seafood in the world, and Indonesian VMS alone adds nearly 5,000 fishing vessels to Global Fishing Watch's existing database of 60,000 vessels. "It's remarkable to see how adding in all these medium sized vessels with VMS really fills in the picture for large chunks of the ocean where we knew there was fishing, but just couldn't see it with AIS alone," says Woods. "It is also revealing new areas where we weren't aware fishing occurs." Google's lead on Global Fishing Watch, Brian Sullivan, says that the platform is built using the latest cloud and machine learning technologies and can easily incorporate additional data sources or methodologies. "The ability to scale rapidly as new countries and providers join means we can move from raw data to quickly producing dynamic visualizations and reporting that promote scientific discovery and support policies for better fishery management," he said. "With Indonesia and Peru, two of the world's top five fishing nations, committed to a new age of transparency in the fishing industry, Google is committed to fostering international cooperation." Because fishing occurs over the horizon and out of sight, the industry remains one of the most opaque in the world. The lack of knowledge about how much fish is being taken from the ocean, and who is fishing where severely hinders effective management. It also facilitates rampant Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that threatens fish stocks, food security and the economies of coastal nations that depend on seafood for food, jobs and foreign export dollars. Gains in transparency through the sharing of government VMS data will not only curb IUU, but will benefit the fishing industry as public demand for information about the source of their seafood increases and open data sharing through Global Fishing Watch provides validation of product source. These partnerships with Indonesia and Peru set a new bar for transparency at sea. Making this data publicly available will support regional cooperation in monitoring, surveillance and enforcement, reduce opportunities for corruption, and enable more informed management decisions. In addition to committing to support any nation willing to share its VMS data publicly, Global Fishing Watch joined 50 members of the tuna industry and 17 other civil society organization to endorse the World Economic Forum Tuna Traceability 2020 Declaration made at the UN Oceans Conference. *SkyTruth's work with the Indonesian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs has been made possible through support from the Packard Foundation and the Walton Family Fund. Global Fishing Watch is an independent 501c3 that was founded and supported by Oceana, SkyTruth and Google. GlobalFishingWatch.org 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. Oceana.org 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. 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. earth.google.com/outreach


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 | 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.”


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 | 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.


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 | 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.

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