Global Fishing Watch Makes a Splash at the UN Ocean Conference

A traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony complete with meke dancing. Giant sculptures of sea creatures made of ocean trash along the East River. Announcements of MPA designations and other commitments to marine conservation by leaders from all over the world. As our Global Fishing Watch team arrived at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York for the first Ocean Conference, we were greeted by these scenes and more.

We were in for a whirlwind week of excitement and ready to make our own contributions to global marine conservation through the conference. The goal of the UN Ocean Conference was to galvanize countries all over the world to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development – Goal 14 (SDG14) of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals initiative established in 2015. 

We were there supporting the Indonesian Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti as she announced the public release of her country’s Vessel Monitoring System data (VMS) in Global Fishing Watch. Now the whole world can see about 5,000 new vessels in Global Fishing Watch, most of which are too small to be required to use the Automatic Identification System (AIS), our main source of data before this VMS launch.

“To ensure better management in the high seas, Indonesia has published our VMS data publicly through Global Fishing Watch,” Susi said. “Now, we all can see where Indonesian fishing boats are going, and if they are operating and transshipping, even in the high seas.”

Minister Susi Pudjiastuti announces the public release of Indonesian VMS data in Global Fishing Watch at UN Ocean Conference side event.

It was a watershed moment for us because no country has ever publicly shared its VMS data before, and although Minister Susi announced her intention to do this last year, the fact that it’s actually been done is unprecedented. Even more exciting–it appears to be just the beginning.  

At the conference, Peruvian Vice Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hector Soldi, announced that Peru will be next to publically release VMS data in Global Fishing Watch, and we’re hearing rumbling that others may be interested!

“Peru brings an important commitment with regard to transparency in fishing. We have joined Global Fishing Watch,” Soldi said.

It looks like we’ve started a movement, and this week at the UN was just a taste of what we’re in for! Together, with our new partners in Peru and Indonesia we are setting a new standard for transparency in the fishing industry.

One of our main funders, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, is already helping to fire people up about this important effort. In a video shown in the UN General Assembly Hall World Ocean Day Celebration,  Leonardo DiCaprio praised Susi and Soldi for their commitment to sharing their VMS data with us.  “This is exactly the type of bold and innovative leadership we need more of all around the world. If we do not take action quickly, we stand to lose critical marine ecosystems and species forever,” he said.

We are always very grateful for DiCaprio’s support and hope that leaders all over the world will hear his plea for their action towards fisheries transparency.