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

Our Recent Webinar Success Bodes Well for More to Come

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Breaking Ground Means Breaking News

It’s been three weeks since we launched Global Fishing Watch, and the new technology platform has created a buzz around the globe from Europe to Southeast Asia, China, Brazil, Costa Rica, Australia and even landlocked parts of the world such as Pakistan and Iran. Users of the map hail from all over as well, and while there’s no doubt what we’re doing is groundbreaking, it’s encouraging to see how quickly the tool is becoming Read more

Partnering to Improve Seafood Traceability

Imagine a vessel captain pulling into port with a cargo hold full of fish. The captain reports the vessel’s identity to the authorities, and his or her entire fishing voyage can be instantly viewed on a screen. The location in which the fish was caught can be verified right there at the dock. The fish can then be labeled and tracked throughout the supply chain all the way to the consumer. That level of transparency was unimaginable just a few years ago. Read more

New Partnership Expands Our View to Artisanal Fisheries

Today, Global Fishing Watch is focused on tracking commercial-scale fishing fleets, because they are the ones required to carry Automatic Identification Systems that broadcast their information to satellites. But small, artisanal fishing vessels represent another side of the picture that can’t be ignored. Although they often employ low-tech, traditional fishing methods (especially in developing countries), small-boat subsistence fishers and those that supply local markets also supply major seafood supply chains and operate around the world. They catch about the same amount of fish for human consumption as commercial fisheries. Read more

We’ve Launched!

Last Thursday, we kicked off the public launch of Global Fishing Watch with an announcement by actor and ocean advocate Leonardo DiCaprio at the Our Ocean Conference in Washington, DC.

After the announcement, organizer and host Secretary of State John Kerry stopped by our demonstration in the conference hall to speak with the team and participate in a live demo of the tool.

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Global Fishing Watch Well Received in Jakarta

Last week our Chief Technology Officer Paul Woods and Google’s lead on the project, Brian Sullivan traveled to Jakarta, Indonesia, to participate in the South-East Asia and Pacific Regional Fisheries Summit. As part of the Economist Events’ World Ocean Initiative, the meetings brought together government, industry, the financial sector and scientists for two days of discussions on a wide array of topics related to fisheries reform across South-East Asia and the adjacent Western Pacific.  Read more

Scientists develop precise methods to identify and measure three very different types of fishing activity

On dry land, ecologists and conservationists can map our human footprints on the landscape. We can see deforestation, mountaintop removal, river damming and development, and it is relatively easy to recognize our impacts on an ecosystem and the plants and animals that live there. Read more

Ending Hide & Seek at Sea: Global Fishing Watch in Science

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), located in the central Pacific between Hawaii and Australia, is the world’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spanning a swath of ocean roughly the size of California, its hosts a series of isolated seamounts and almost entirely uninhabited islands, all supporting rich, largely unspoiled ecosystems. Read more

Making Headlines: We’re On to Something!

It’s been less than two years since we first demonstrated the Global Fishing Watch prototype in public, and the media coverage hasn’t stopped. Since announcing the prototype we’ve been featured in more than 100 publications on six continents, from the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal and International Business Times to media outlets in Russia, China, Read more

Reading Tracks on the Water: A Team Effort for Humans and Machines

When it looks like spaghetti, it may be fishing. That’s one of the first lessons students learn when they’re working with Kristina Boerder, one of our academic partners from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Of course, she’s not teaching them about pasta. She’s teaching them about the movement patterns of ships at sea. The students are helping Kristina classify the tracks of ocean-going vessels recorded from satellite signals. Read more