Could Google Maps Help Reel In Pirate Fishing?

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Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization indicates that over 30 percent of the world’s fisheries are over-harvested and the population levels of more than 75 percent of the remaining fish are in danger.

National Geographic reports that illegal fishing contributes heavily to the problem and accounts for up to 32 percent of the wild-caught imported seafood sold in the United States.

Illegal, unreported commercial fishing could deplete the world’s fish supply if it continues.

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Global Fishing Watch Offers a Worldwide Solution

SkyTruth, an environmental non-profit organization based in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, partnered with Google and conservation watchdog Oceana to create a tracking system that could help officials and organizations crack down on pirate fishing boats.

Global Fishing Watch was unveiled in late 2014 and displayed the 2013 routes of more than 25,000 ships.

How It Works

Four SpaceQuest satellites continuously track automatic identification system transmissions from large ocean vessels around the world. Global Fishing Watch examines this data using an algorithm created by Analyze Corp. that flags possible fishing boats based on movements, port visits, and travel patterns. SkyTruth and other organizations can then monitor the flagged ships to watch for signs of illegal behaviors.

The Future of Fishing

SkyTruth plans to release a public version of Global Fishing Watch with almost real-time data to allow anyone to watch, monitor, and track the vessels using the ocean, according to Wired. This way, government agencies, watchdog organizations, and concerned citizens can work together to shed more light on pirate fishing and to put an end to the harmful practice.

Illegal fishing activity often goes unnoticed, especially if it involves smaller vessels. In certain regions, officials may even choose to overlook infractions entirely.

Global Fishing Watch provides us all with a powerful tool that brings increased transparency to the fishing sector and holds both fishermen and government officials more accountable for their actions.

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