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.





Global Fishing Watch uses publicly broadcast AIS signals to track fishing vessels. On the Global Fishing Watch heat map, every lighted point represents a fishing vessel. The blue points are vessels detected through AIS, the green points represent nearly 5,000 additional vessels revealed through Indonesia’s Vessel Monitoring System data.

Indonesia Makes its Fishing Fleet Visible to the World through Global Fishing Watch


View this on the Global Fishing Watch Map here:

This week, at the United Nation’s Ocean Conference, the Republic of Indonesia becomes the first nation ever to publish Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data revealing the location and activity of its commercial fishing fleet. The new data being made public on the Global Fishing Watch public mapping platform reveals commercial fishing in Indonesian waters and areas of the Indian Ocean where it had previously been invisible to the public and other nations.

Susi Pudjiastuti, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs for the Republic of Indonesia, is taking a bold step toward increasing transparency in her country’s fishing industry. Today she urges other nations to do the same.

“Illegal fishing is an international problem, and countering it requires cross border cooperation between countries,” says Minister Susi. “I urge all nations to join me in sharing their vessel monitoring data with Global Fishing Watch. Together, we can begin a new era in transparency to end illegal and unreported fishing.”

Also at the UN Ocean’s Conference, Global Fishing Watch has committed to host any country’s VMS data, calling on other governments to follow Indonesia’s lead. “We believe publicly shared VMS will become a powerful new standard for transparent operation in commercial fishing,” says Paul Woods, Global Fishing Watch CEO and Chief Technology Officer for SkyTruth, a founding partner of Global Fishing Watch along with Oceana and Google. “SkyTruth has been collaborating with the Indonesian government for the past two years to really understand their VMS data and find new ways for VMS to enhance their fisheries management.”

Working closely with Oceana toward a united goal of transparency at sea, Peru becomes the first nation to follow Indonesia’s lead. Vice Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hector Soldi, announced Peru’s intent to publicly share their VMS data in Global Fishing Watch.

“We applaud the commitments made by Peru and Indonesia to publish their previously private vessel tracking data and encourage other countries to follow their lead,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Senior Vice President for the United States and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana. “Together, with forward-thinking governments like these, we can bring even greater transparency to the oceans. By publishing fishing data and using Global Fishing Watch, governments and citizens can unite to help combat illegal fishing worldwide. With more eyes on the ocean, there are fewer places for illegal fishers to hide.”

Global Fishing Watch uses publicly broadcast Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships at sea to reveal the activity of the majority of all industrial-sized commercial fishing vessels (those exceeding a capacity of 100 Gross Tons which average around 24 meters). The inclusion of government-owned VMS data adds detailed information on smaller commercial fishing vessels that are not required to carry AIS, and are therefore not reliably trackable by any other means. Indonesian regulations require VMS on fishing vessels with a capacity equal to or exceeding 30 Gross Tons (averaging about 16 meters or more).

Indonesia is the second-largest producer of wild-caught seafood in the world, and Indonesian VMS alone adds nearly 5,000 fishing vessels to Global Fishing Watch’s existing database of 60,000 vessels. “It’s remarkable to see how adding in all these medium sized vessels with VMS really fills in the picture for large chunks of the ocean where we knew there was fishing, but just couldn’t see it with AIS alone,” says Woods. “It is also revealing new areas where we weren’t aware fishing occurs.”

Google’s lead on Global Fishing Watch, Brian Sullivan, says that the platform is built using the latest cloud and machine learning technologies and can easily incorporate additional data sources or methodologies. “The ability to scale rapidly as new countries and providers join means we can move from raw data to quickly producing dynamic visualizations and reporting that promote scientific discovery and support policies for better fishery management,” he said. “With Indonesia and Peru, two of the world’s top five fishing nations, committed to a new age of transparency in the fishing industry, Google is committed to fostering international cooperation.”

Because fishing occurs over the horizon and out of sight, the industry remains one of the most opaque in the world. The lack of knowledge about how much fish is being taken from the ocean, and who is fishing where severely hinders effective management. It also facilitates rampant Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that threatens fish stocks, food security and the economies of coastal nations that depend on seafood for food, jobs and foreign export dollars.

Gains in transparency through the sharing of government VMS data will not only curb IUU, but will benefit the fishing industry as public demand for information about the source of their seafood increases and open data sharing through Global Fishing Watch provides validation of product source.

These partnerships with Indonesia and Peru set a new bar for transparency at sea. Making this data publicly available will support regional cooperation in monitoring, surveillance and enforcement, reduce opportunities for corruption, and enable more informed management decisions.

In addition to committing to support any nation willing to share its VMS data publicly, Global Fishing Watch joined 50 members of the tuna industry and 17 other civil society organization to endorse the World Economic Forum Tuna Traceability 2020 Declaration made at the UN Oceans Conference.


*SkyTruth’s work with the Indonesian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs has been made possible through support from the Packard Foundation and the Walton Family Fund.

Media contact:

Kimbra Cutlip
Kimbra (at)
+1 443.871.1632

New Release Beta 2.0 – You Asked, We Delivered

Today, we are releasing a brand new version of the Global Fishing Watch interactive map that is easier to use and adds nearly 25,000 new vessels. It also increases your ability to customize the map view and share your work. Beta Release 2.0. comes in response to some great feedback we’ve been getting from our registered users since we launched in September.

You can now: Read more

The new release of Global Fishing Watch, Beta 2.0, includes a new look with enhanced custom features and 60,000 fishing vessels.

Beta Release 2.0: Nearly Doubling our Database of Commercial Fishing Vessels

Since our launch in September, we have added 25,000 more fishing vessels to our database. Our new Beta release 2.0 now includes 60,000 fishing vessels.

Although the number of fishing boats using AIS and the number of satellites receiving their signals have been steadily rising around the world, the vast majority of our gains have come from refinements to our analytical methods. The fishing detection algorithm has improved, and we’ve been able to identify more fishing vessels from the data we have. Read more

Fisheries Stakeholders Offer Insights to New Uses and Expanded Datasets

During the first two weeks of May, a team of Global Fishing Watch developers, designers and project managers gathered in Europe with members of our user community to teach, learn and brainstorm improvements and new uses for our online map and data. Read more

Can Tourism Trump Tuna in Mexico?

This Global FIshing Watch map shows fishing activity (lighted dots) within and around the proposed Revillagigedo Marine Protected area [outlined in yellow] off the west coast of Mexico.

Last year, a study comparing the economic value of tourism and commercial fishing around a cluster of remote Eastern Pacific Islands put some hard numbers behind a proposal to create the one of the world’s largest Marine Protected Areas (MPA). Those numbers shifted the balance in a previously one-sided dialogue with the government of Mexico which owns the islands. Read more

Our Recent Webinar Success Bodes Well for More to Come

Last Monday, we held a webinar in which 48 registered Global Fishing Watch users had an opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of, two of the authors of our recent report “The Global Footprint of Transshipment.” Read more

86,490 Points on a Map: All Potential Transshipments

5 years of transshipments 86 billionOn February 22, we announced some 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

What’s Happening inside Motu Maha Marine Reserve?

There were a whole lot of fishing vessels inside the Motu Maha no-take marine reserve last year, and every one of them had a reason to be there. As part of our series on deciphering suspicious behavior, we asked Dave Stevens, Senior Analyst for the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, to help us understand why nine fishing vessels made repeated trips into the 1,868 square mile marine reserve around the Auckland Islands—a World Heritage site 285 miles from the South Island of New Zealand. Read more

Fishing in a Marine Park? Look Again.

After our recent post Deciphering Suspicious Behavior: It’s not always what it seems, we thought it would be insightful to post a few examples of vessel behavior that looked suspect, but turned out to be easily explained on closer inspection.

Often, a look at the other vessels in the area can help explain what’s going on.

In this case, the fishing vessel Glory Pacific No. 1 was seen moving back and forth over a large swath of ocean within the boundaries of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a 150,000 square mile marine park where all fishing is prohibited. Read more

MPA Survey Hints at Complexity of Marine Conservation

The no-take marine reserve Motu Maha surrounds the Aukland Islands.

The no-take marine reserve Motu Maha surrounds the Aukland Islands.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are among the best tools we have for conserving biodiversity in the oceans, protecting vulnerable marine life, and providing places of refuge for fish stocks. But do they work? Can vast areas of ocean really be regulated? And if so, what management strategies are most effective? Read more