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Local company is making global commercial fishing more transparent

By Staff | Nov 20, 2015

Local company, Sky Truth, has partnered with Google and Oceana to launch a global fishing watch project to bring more transparency and accountability to the commercial fishing industry around the world.

This program acquires and analyzes data from the ship’s automatic identification system (AIS) network, which broadcasts a ship’s identity, location, speed and direction.

Vessels use the AIS network primarily for safety reasons, and although the network is public, the data has not been easily accessed and distributed until now. Anyone with an internet connection will be able to see satellite images of where thousands of fishing boats are operating daily.

Millions of people rely on the oceans for their livelihood and food. Responsible fishing practices are a necessity. Collapsing fish populations make monitoring fishing activities critically important for sustainability and making sure fish aren’t being harvested in protected habitats.

In addition, this tracking initiative lends itself to accountability for the management of fisheries. Buyers will be able to see where their fish are coming from, and ensure that the fishermen are using good marine stewardship principles.

Made up of thousands of islands, Indonesia was the first country to partner with Sky Truth and the Global Fishing Watch program, and as an attractive maritime region highly engaged in fishing, Indonesia has a vested interest in monitoring fishing vessel behavior.

Even though Indonesia monitors it’s waters, as the world’s largest archipelago and second largest capture fisheries producer, there is much illegal fishing activity going on there. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia estimates that illegal fishing costs Indonesia approximately 3.1 billion U.S. dollars each year, with some estimates as high as 5.1 billion. The Indonesian government takes illegal fishing practices very seriously and has recently taken heat for blowing up vessels when their crews were found guilty of poaching.

The current tracking system employed by the Indonesian government and operated by the Indonesian Navy is the VMS, (Vessel Monitoring System). Their VMS is one of the largest in the world, but data obtained is tightly held and not available to the public.

Sky Truth founder and president, John Amos stated that Global Fishing Watch technology will allow fisheries managers to quickly and easily visualize their data, providing a powerful tool to monitor and measure fishing activity.

“We are excited by this opportunity to work with Indonesia to enable greater transparency,” said Amos.

Amos is a geologist with many years’ experience viewing satellite imagery of the changing landscape worldwide. He began Sky Truth as a non-profit vehicle to provide images that expose the landscape disruption and habitat degradation caused by mining, oil and gas drilling, deforestation, fishing and other human activities. The motto at Sky Truth is, “If you can see it, you can change it.”

Amos envisions a future where, thanks to global fishing accountability practices, any individual would be able to go to any grocery store or market, scan a package of fish with an app, and see exactly where the fish came from, when it was caught and even read a bio of the person who caught it.

“We want to put the burden of good fishing practices on the fishermen who want to sell to the U.S.,” said Amos, “thus ensuring a sustainable market for years to come.”

For more information on Shepherdstown based, Sky Truth, visit their website www.skytruth.org.