The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has funded Global Fishing Watch © Press Association Images
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has funded Global Fishing Watch © Press Association Images

Leonardo DiCaprio backs fishing fleet tracking tool

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
16 September 2016

A new online platform will allow anyone in the world to track the activities of the world’s largest commercial fishing vessels.

Oceana, SkyTruth and Google have launched the public beta version of Global Fishing Watch, a tool it is believed can help to rebuild fish stocks and protect oceans by making the whereabouts of major fishing fleets transparent.

The platform has received funding from bodies including the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the environmental charity set up by the Hollywood actor.

Global Fishing Watch shows the fishing activity of 35,000 commercial fishing vessels operating throughout the world in real time for free.

The platform is regularly updated to show vessel tracks and fishing activity from 1 January 2012 through to the present, with a time lag of 72 hours.

By sharing this critical information publically for the first time, Global Fishing Watch aims to allow fishery managers to better understand and manage fishing activity in their waters and aid enforcement agencies in stopping illegal fishing.

The platform uses data from boats’ Automatic Identification System (AIS) – an instrument used by boats to avoid collisions – which gives information on their location.

The data is collected by satellite and terrestrial receivers, to show the movement of vessels. Global Fishing Watch analyses the data to track vessel movement and classify it as “fishing” or “non-fishing” activity.

While not all fishing boats use AIS, it is often required by insurers and is common among the largest vessels – which account for the vast bulk of fish caught, say the team behind the initiative.

In the EU and US boats over 15m or 65ft in length respectively are required to be equipped with AIS.

It says that it can also identify vessels that turn AIS off to avoid being tracked and make this information public.

“Global Fishing Watch will revolutionise the way the world views commercial fishing,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for the United States and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana. “It will allow governments to track suspicious vessels, enforce rules and reduce seafood fraud.

“Journalists and everyday citizens will be able to identify behavior that may be related to illegal fishing or overfishing.”

Global Fishing Watch said it is collaborating with governments, private industry, and scientific and international agencies to aid sustainability.

Indonesia has committed to making all data from its registered fishing vessels with trackers public.

Trace Register, which helps enable traceability for the global seafood industry, is working with Global Fishing Watch to enable its customers to verify their seafood was legally and responsibly produced.

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