Illegal fishing is one of the most politically concerned environmental issues and now, Google has plunged to stop illegal fishing by launching a dedicated free tool that helps to track down illegal fishing boats and such activities, which costs up to $23 billion in revenue every year for the fishing industry. Google’s new tool Global Fishing Watch will help to curb illegal fishing, as the name suggests, globally.
Google has partnered with conservation campaign groups SkyTruth and Oceana to launch the free tool designed to show all of the trackable fishing activities in the ocean. The website will help people with the internet connection to locate each of the trackable boat’s movements in real-time and pinpoint suspicious fishing activities to report it to authorities.
Brian Sullivan, the manager in charge of the Global Fighing Watch project at Google said in a statement:
“We’re able to bring massive scale and technology to global problems that were not possible to address in the same way just a few years ago and this is one of them.”
Google has already used the similar technology to protect Sumatran tigers, African apes and other endangered wildlife across the world. However, Google’s intention to store and maintain large-scale data has been criticized over privacy issues. Some critics also feel that the gathering of data related to fishing activities would help curb the overfishing issue that affects over 35 percent of world’s marine fish stocks. Sullivan also said that the prototype tool has managed to track around 3,000 vessels, so far, and the numbers could rise after many new satellites become operational in coming years.
Google, with SkyTruth and Oceana plan to release the website for free before 2016, and it depends on how fast the group raise funds for this cause.
John Amos, president of SkyTruth, said in a statement:
“So much of what happens out on the high seas is invisible, and that has been a huge barrier to understanding and showing the world what’s at stake for the ocean. But now, satellite data is allowing us to make human interaction with the ocean more transparent than ever before”.
Google claims that despite having stringent rules and regulations imposed by many countries, many illegal fishing boats easily slip in and out of the restricted zones to catch fish undetected because of authorities’ lack of resources to tackle. Corrupt and weak officials in some nations are also said to be the main cause for not able to tackle illegal activities across the ocean.
Google’s free tool uses satellites to capture signals from the tracking devices compulsorily carried by large fishing vessels to avoid collisions at sea. Oceana’s vice president for US oceans Jackie Savitz said that the Global Fishing Watch system is still in development mode, and already prompted concerns about revealing secret fishing spots. However, it is also true that people can buy boats’ location data, already.
Last Friday, Oceana revealed a report in Sydney, Australia, which shows Russian registered fishing vessels were plotted at September 2013, fishing in the eastern coast of Russia’s protected Dzhugdzhursky reserve where various types of salmon and other species lives. One more Russian fishing boat was also shown multiple times (February and March) fishing inside Fiji’s exclusive economic zone waters.
Meanwhile, a big challenge for the group is to track small vessels that involves itself in illegal fishing activities, as those vessels are not obliged to carry the AIS (Automatic Identification System) devices to avoid collisions. There is also a possibility, where large vessels with AIS can turn off their devices to avoid tracking, but Oceana hopes that the thousands of citizen monitors will force authorities to act on suspected vessels that comes to the port.