Game Changer in Fight Against Illegal Fishing

There’s a good chance that in the time it takes you to read this story, a crew of seafaring criminals has hauled stolen fish worth tens of thousands of dollars onto a boat. These illegal acts can take many forms: fishing without a license, violating a protected marine reserve, using banned gear, not reporting a catch, or breaking any number of other fisheries laws. Illegal fishing takes place on a grand scale every day, accounting for up to $23.5 billion in stolen seafood yearly — or around one in every five fish taken from our oceans.

Illegal fishers commit their crimes with no regard for law-abiding fishermen, ocean health, or even the safety and well-being of their own crews. These illicit operators are also linked to other serious crimes and human-rights abuses, including drug smuggling, human trafficking, modern slavery, and murder.

Over the years, law-enforcement authorities, fisheries managers and scientists have devised various ways to curb illegal fishing. But most have failed because they lack a critical element in stopping any theft: awareness of where and when the crimes are occurring. Efforts to clamp down on illegal fishing traditionally rely on aircraft and patrol vessels, which are often prohibitively expensive — even for wealthy nations. The vastness of the ocean makes this traditional at-sea surveillance and enforcement largely ineffective.

Now, however, a new technological platform is poised to solve the challenges of stopping illegal fishing.

Project Eyes on the Seas, a joint initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the UK-based Satellite Applications Catapult, combines satellite monitoring of the oceans with other information, such as fishing-vessel databases and oceanographic data, to help authorities detect suspicious fishing activity far more efficiently than has been possible in the past — often in near-real time.

At the heart of Project Eyes —> Read More