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Google has joined the fight against illegal fishing

Google has helped launch an ambitious project combining cloud computing, big data and satellite networks to monitor global fishing activity with an eye to curb overfishing. Global Fishing Watch, formed with environmental groups Skytruth and Oceana, is described as the first global view of commercial fishing based on satellite data analysis. It’s intended to “give citizens a simple, online platform to visualize, track and share information about fishing activity worldwide,” according to a release from Oceana.

Environmental groups have developed a sprawling new surveillance system to help track illegal fishing across the globe. A prototype of the Global Fishing Watch system was announced today at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, and was spearheaded by Oceana, a conservationist group, with financial and engineering support from Google. Using satellite data from SpaceQuest and software developed by SkyTruth, the system maps and displays the activity of more than 25,000 fishing ships from 2012 to 2013. Some ships were registered as commercial fishing boats, others behaved in ways that suggested fishing activity. This activity is highlighted on the map by orange and yellow dots. The idea is to use advanced technology to monitor fishing activity at a time when global stocks are under increased pressure, posing serious environmental and economic threats. A 2013 report from Oceana estimated that illegal fishing costs between $10 billion and $23 billion in global losses every year. For now, Global Fishing Watch only displays ship activity from the previous two years, but Oceana aims to eventually incorporate more recent data that will allow authorities to act quickly.

 

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