Sunday, 16 November 2014 00:23

VIDEO: Go ogle illegal fishing being tracked from space Featured


Google, Skytruth and Oceana have joined forces to create ‘Global Fishing Watch’, which isn’t to display the best times for fishing on your smart watch but a big data platform leveraging satellite data to visualise, track and share info about fishing activity worldwide - legal or not.

A prototype of the brand new Global Fishing Watch platform has been unveiled at the 2014 ICUN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, with a public version still to come.

The prototype was developed by Skytruth, Oceana and Google, as explained here, with Skytruth a non-profit with extensive remote sensing and digital mapping experience, Oceana ‘the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans’, and Google’s ‘Earth Outreach’ team, dedicated to ‘leveraging and developing Google’s infrastructure to address environmental and humanitarian issues’.

With the Global Fishing Watch platform, fishing vessels can be tracked in real time from around the world, showing where fishing vessels really are - something incredibly handy in figuring out whether they’re in the places they’re supposed to be - or not.

As an example, Quartz reports of a fishing vessel that claimed to be docked, but could be seen by Global Fishing Watch to be in a completely different location, something which could easily aid the authorities in permanently blacklisting illegal fishing operators.

Given the vast expanse of ocean, fishing vessels operating illegally could once rely on the security of obscurity to mask their illegal actions, but with Global Fishing Watch, that is definitely no longer the case - to the benefit of global fishing stocks, the environment and the planet.

The Global Fishing Watch site says its interactive web tool, which you can see a video demonstration of below, will enable ‘enable anyone to visualise the global fishing fleet in space and time, and will ‘reveal the intensity of fishing effort around the world, one of the stressors contributing to the precipitous decline of our fisheries.’

The site goes on to explain that ‘with hundreds of millions of people around the world depending on our ocean for their livelihoods, and many more relying on the ocean for food, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our ocean is a critical global priority’, and that this is a ‘tool that harnesses the power of citizen engagement to hold our leaders accountable for maintaining an abundant ocean.’

Below is a video showing how the Global Fishing Watch platform in operation - it’s a must see video!

 So, how does it work?

Oceana explains how the platfom works, saying that it ‘analyses data points from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) network.’

AIS, is a type of ‘GPS broadcast of a ship’s location’, and while it was ‘primarily designed as a safety mechanism to avoid collisions at sea’, the information gleaned ‘about a vessel’s behaviour can be derived by analysing the identity, speed and direction of broadcasting vessels.’

By removing cargo ships and non-fishing vessels, Global Fishing Watch provides ‘an unprecedented view of human interaction with the ocean.’

Andrew Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, sharply noted that: “Global Fishing Watch is designed to empower all stakeholders, including governments, fishery managers, citizens and members of the fishing industry itself, so that together they may work to bring back a healthy, bio-diverse and maximally productive ocean.”

“By engaging citizens to hold their elected officials accountable for managing fisheries sustainably and for enforcing fishing rules, Global Fishing Watch will help bring back the world’s fisheries, protecting and enhancing the livelihoods of the hundreds of millions of people who depend on ocean fisheries for food and income.”

Skytruth’s President and Founder, John Amos, amicably added that: “So much of what happens out on the high seas is invisible, and that has been a huge barrier to understanding and showing the world what’s at stake for the ocean.”

“But now, satellite data is allowing us to make human interaction with the ocean more transparent than ever before. Fishermen can show how they are doing their part to fish sustainably, we can motivate citizens to watch the places they care about, and we can all work together to restore a thriving ocean.”

Not to be left out, Google’s Ocean and Earth Outreach program manager, Brian Sullivan said: “While many of the environmental trends in the ocean can be sobering, the combination of cloud computing and massive data is enabling new tools to visualize, understand and potentially reverse these trends

“We are excited to contribute a Google-scale approach toward ocean sustainability and public awareness."

Illegal fishermen of the world, it's not just Big Brother you have to worry about - but now Big Data, too. Poach, and the chances of you getting poached in return have literally just gone sky high!


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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