Illegal fishing is a global concern that threatens the health of our oceans, worsens the impact of overfishing on threatened marine ecosystems, and costs an estimated $23.5 billion annually. It accounts for one of every five fish taken from the world’s seas, and jeopardizes the livelihoods of tens of millions of people who depend on the oceans’ resources.
Target 14.6 focuses on mapping countries’ progress with implementing instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Here’s a look at five key organizations that are tackling illegal fishing head on.
In 2014, the marine advocacy group Oceana partnered with Google and SkyTruth to create Global Fishing Watch, a web-based technology platform to deter illegal fishing and decrease overfishing. Launched in September 2015, the platform enables anyone with an internet connection to view fishing activity anywhere in the ocean in near real-time. The platform uses public broadcast data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that transmits a ship’s identity, location, speed and direction. Originally a navigation tool to help prevent ship collisions, AIS information travels from vessels to satellite receivers around the world, providing a global feed of vessel locations.
Through Global Fishing Watch, citizens can track fishing vessels, help identify suspicious fishing behaviour, and monitor commercial fishing activity worldwide. This puts pressure on seafood suppliers to uphold transparency and support legally caught seafood, helps enforcement agencies prioritize problem areas, as well as allow fishery managers to track vessels and detect potential unauthorized activities. Global Fishing Watch is funded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. (Note: this website also made our top five for artisanal fishing as well.)
In 2015, the Pew Charitable Trusts launched a technology system that helps authorities monitor, detect, and respond to illicit fishing activity across the world’s oceans. Developed in partnership with the Satellite Applications Catapult, the technology analyzes multiple sources of live satellite tracking data and links this to information about a ship’s ownership history and country of registration, providing a dossier of up-to-the-minute data that can alert officials to suspicious vessel movements. The project has had an initial launch monitoring the waters surrounding Easter Island to identify suspicious vessels in the Chilean coastal zone.
Project Eyes on the Seas is currently expanding its scope to encourage more countries, regional fisheries management organizations, and seafood retail groups to commit to using its system. This will help guarantee that only legally caught seafood is taken from the ocean and reaches consumers’ plates.
The Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) is a global collaboration supported by the governments of Mauritania and Guinea. FiTI aims at enhancing responsible and sustainable fisheries through transparency and participation. The FiTI Standard consists of seven principles developed over a two-year discussion process with fisheries stakeholders from government, companies and civil society.
Participation in the FiTI Standard is voluntary, but once a country has decided to become involved, mandatory requirements must be followed to ensure that all countries work towards the same levels of transparency. FiTI is currently within its implementation phase of establishing national multi-stakeholder groups in countries that have committed to the initiative.
Provenance, a tech startup enabling supply chain transparency, applied blockchain technology to trace yellowfin and skipjack tuna in Indonesia, from catch to consumer. Mobile phone and blockchain technology as well as smart tagging were used to track fish caught by fishermen with verified social sustainability claims. The project’s goal was to support robust proof of compliance to standards at the origin and along the supply chain. This explores new methods for enabling consumer-facing transparency – creating a secure flow of information enabling the full chain of custody to be accessed, including key social attributes such as fishing method, vessel type and compliance data. According to Provenance, blockchains present a global, inclusive solution for traceability, enabling a global peer-to-peer network to form an open platform that can deliver neutrality, reliability and security, particularly in grassroots trade.
The piracy crisis off the coast of Somalia has roots in pervasive poverty and lack of economic opportunities on land as well as illegal fishing at sea. Launched in 2014, Secure Fisheries is a program of the One Earth Future Foundation (OEF), funded by philanthropist Marcel Arsenault. Secure Fisheries employs a science-based approach to combat illegal fishing and support sustainable fisheries in the Somali region by working to strengthen maritime policies, engage in community-supported projects, and foster regional collaboration. Working at the state, regional, and global levels, Secure Fisheries promotes sustainable management of Somali fisheries, improves food and economic security in the Lake Victoria Basin and combats illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean.