Our Data Suggests Transhippment Involved in Refrigerated Cargo Vessel Just Sentenced to $5.9 Million and Jail Time for Carrying Illegal Sharks

The Ecuadoran government demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting its waters from illegal activity today when it handed down a $5.9 million fine to a Chinese refrigerated cargo vessel owner and a four year prison sentence to its captain for the illegal transport of sharks and shark fins in the protected waters of the Galapagos.

The vessel, Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was caught crossing the protected waters of the Galapagos Islands with its illicit cargo on August 13. Authorities and conservation organizations were eager to know where the vessel came from and how they acquired the sharks. Both are questions Global Fishing Watch has been digging into. Read more

Transshipment Report Refined

Our commitment to open data and transparency is paying off. Input from Global Fishing Watch users and the public, is helping us refine and improve our analyses. Today, we’re publishing an update to our groundbreaking transshipment report. Download the report and data now. Read more

What Can We See When AIS Signals Disappear?

We are often asked about how Global Fishing Watch can be effective when vessel captains can simply turn off their AIS. And our answer has always been, “they have to turn it back on sometime—especially when entering port, and intentional blackouts raise a red flag.” Our recent analysis of fleet activity around the Argentine EEZ is a prime example of how careful analysis allows us to “read between the lines” and quite literally begin to fill in the gaps. Read more

86,490 Points on a Map: All Potential Transshipments

5 years of transshipments 86 billion

In early 2017, we released an original report based on analysis of our data that revealed remarkable new insights about what goes on between fishing vessels at sea. The artificial intelligence platform we developed found that over the past five years, there were more than 86,000 potential cases in which fishing vessels transferred their catch to refrigerated cargo ships at sea. The practice is called transshipment, and in many cases it is illegal because it enables the mixing of legal and illegal catch and facilitates slave labor on fishing vessels that don’t need to return to port to drop off their catch. Read more

Transshipment: A Global Footprint Never Seen Before

It’s been just over five months since Global Fishing Watch launched publicly, and this week, we hope to make another splash by not just mapping global fishing activity, but by providing an unprecedented view of very specific activity by a very specific class of vessels around the world.

Today, at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Indonesia, Brian Sullivan, Google’s lead for Global Fishing Watch, is presenting the results of our new analysis that produced the first-ever global footprint of transshipment. We are releasing our data and analysis of these transshipments today in a free report titled The Global View of Transshipment: Preliminary Findings. Read more

Flag of Convenience or Cloak of Malfeasance?

In the U.S., you can’t slap a license plate on your car from a state you don’t live in. Not so for ships on the ocean. Of course, ships don’t have license plates; they have flags, but it’s not uncommon for a fishing vessel to fly a flag from a country that has no actual ties to the boat, the owner, or the captain behind the wheel.

Many countries have what’s called an open registry, which means they allow foreign vessels to register and fly their flags, so long as the vessel owner pays the fee and meets the registration requirements. Read more

Mystery Moves: What’s Up in the Pacific?

Over the past couple of months, SkyTruth analyst Bjorn Bergman has been watching some interesting activity by the Chinese fishing fleet in the Pacific. A large Chinese flagged squid-fishing fleet had been fishing at the boundary of Peru’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) throughout the summer and fall of 2016. Then, near the middle of December, many of them suddenly began migrating some 3,000 miles to the northwest. Read more

A New View of Marine Protected Areas

In 2016, 33 countries agreed to establish a global network of scientifically supported Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that will increase the amount of ocean area protected from the current 2 percent to 10 percent by the year 2020. MPAs either restrict human activity such as fishing, or they prohibit it all together. But the question is: do they work? Read more

Deciphering Suspicious Behavior: Not Always What It Seems

The first step in catching illegal and unreported fishing activity can feel a little like casting a net over a wide swath of the ocean. There’s going to be a lot of bycatch, because much of what fits in your net isn’t really what you’re after. It takes some background knowledge and often a little investigative work to find the keepers. Sometimes you come up empty handed.

Here are some reasons suspicious-looking behavior by commercial fishing vessels might actually represent perfectly legal activity. Read more

Fishing Fleet Goes Home for the Holidays

‘Tis the season, and even fishers want to be home for the holidays. The flag state filter in Global Fishing Watch allows us to select vessels flagged to a specific country or countries. In the spirit of the season, we decided to use it to see if  a cultural tradition that has nothing to do with fishing can be revealed through fishing vessel behavior. Watch the video to see what we mean, then check it out for yourself by following the links below to the same work space on the Global Fishing Watch map.

Map of the Azores with Spanish fleet activity seen through AIS data.

The same map with individual vessel tracks highlighted 

Identifying Transshipment From the Data

When two ships meet to transfer goods, it is called transshipment. In the fisheries industry, it is sometimes legal in ports, but usually illegal out at sea where the practice can’t be monitored. [You can read more about it here]. Transshipment can facilitate the mixing of illegal or unreported catch with legal catch, making it easier for illegal operators to “launder” their product. Read more

Characterizing Gaps in the Data

Just a few years ago the very idea of collecting billions of radio signals from ocean-going vessels all around the world and creating a global map of their activity in near-real time would have been unthinkable. But today’s cloud computing technology allows us to do amazing things with huge amounts of data. Read more

When Vessels Report False Locations

Occasionally, the AIS messages transmitted from a ship provide a location that makes no sense, say, in the middle of the Antarctic or over a mountain range. In such cases, either the AIS transponder has malfunctioned, the data got scrambled in transmission, or the system has been tampered with in a deliberate attempt to disguise the vessel’s location. Read more

AIS and the Challenges of Tracking Vessels at Sea

At Global Fishing Watch, we hear it all the time: “Tracking commercial fishing vessels from satellites is such a great idea, and it seems so easy!” In fact, we’ve received a few questions from our readers asking us why this isn’t just a simple hack of publicly available data. Read more

How Much Fish Can A Fisherman Fish? (and how we’re trying to find out)

To help researchers better understand how much fish is being taken from the ocean, we’re developing ways to use our data for estimating the total potential catch of the global fishing fleet. It’s a big and a complex question to answer, partly because the source of our information, AIS, is limited. It doesn’t tell us most of what we need to know. “If we cannot get the actual amount of catch from a vessel, the next best thing Read more