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WWF Pioneers Use of AIS Data to Track Fishing Vessels

December 10, 2012

Following on my last post on remote sensing systems is a recent announcement by WWF that it is starting to look at publicly available AIS data for fishing vessels above 300 metric tons.  A nice overview is here at FIS.

Brief excerpt:

Using the “Automatic Identification System” (AIS) introduced by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in December 2000 for safety reasons, WWF shows how AIS data will simply and effectively let governments and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) retrace the routes and fishing activities of vessels worldwide, improving sustainable fisheries management by revealing where IUU activity could be occurring.

Via satellite, AIS supplies data for identifying a ship: name, size, position and other details are transmitted and even the speed of a vessel can be determined.

In all, this is a great step forward.  If the software and data were in my hands, I’d use it to identify the common landing points of vessels engaged in suspicious activity to drive the UN Port States Agreement.  Showing how useful this data is would also help push mandatory AIS coverage to vessels below 300 MTs.

To put things in perspective, there are about 40,000 vessels above 300 metric tons…which is just a fraction of the roughly 4 million vessels in the global fishing fleet.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne Iudicello permalink
    December 10, 2012 2:29 pm

    Great stuff! Thanks for posting. Not only will this be a tool for pressing the case for the Port States Agreement and combating IUU, it could provide the spatial information on fishing that has been a gap in our understanding on incidental takes of seabirds and other protected species that have interactions with fishing vessels.

    • December 10, 2012 2:45 pm

      Great point. I’d love to see the data used that way. Suzanne, you know, I’m not too familiar with studies on the spatial distribution of seabird bycatch. Anything to recommend? And are there any measures in place for international fisheries? Such as to avoid hotspots? This is an issue I’m really interested in learning more about.


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