May 1, 2016: Global Fishing Watch has taken another big step toward transparency in the commercial fishing industry with a new release of its interactive data mapping platform. Today's Beta Release 2.0 includes data from 75 percent more fishing vessels and enhanced features that allow more customized views of apparent global fishing activity.* The new release also opens access to basic features without requiring user registration.
Launched in 2016, the web-based platform analyzes publicly broadcast Automatic Information System (AIS) signals from ships at sea to identify individual ships and display commercial fishing vessel tracks on an interactive map in near-real-time and all the way back to January, 2012.
Studies have shown that nearly 40 percent of the world's seafood comes from illegal, unregulated and unreported sources. Illegal activities such as drug trafficking and slave labor are also often associated with commercial fishing, which occurs over the horizon and out of sight. There is an urgent need for the public transparency and seafood traceability that Global Fishing Watch enables.
With the addition of 25,000 new ships to the Global Fishing Watch database, Beta 2.0 now reveals the activity of some 60,000 boats, representing the majority of the world's industrial fishing fleet. Along with an enhanced look and feel, new features have also been added to increase the ability to customize map views and share them with the public.
Registered users can now:
- Upload a custom layer and overlay their data onto the Global Fishing Watch interactive map.
- Generate and download a report of fishing activity data within selected marine protected areas, Exclusive Economic Zones, or Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, over a selected time period.
- Filter results to display commercial fishing vessels by the country in which they are registered and see multiple nations in one view.
- Automatically revisit vessels they selected in previous sessions
Access to the map has also been expanded:
- Map users can now embed their customized workspaces into third-party websites for public sharing.
- Basic map features are now available without registration
Many of the enhancements in Beta 2.0 are in direct response to feedback from some of the 30,000 people who have registered to use the free online tool since Global Fishing Watch launched in September 2016. "Almost immediately after we launched people began to use the map to ask questions they couldn't answer before," says Global Fishing Watch CEO Paul Woods. "They're using it to understand the impacts of marine protected areas on fishing, or to target strategies that protect seabirds from entanglement in fishing gear. These are things they tell us they couldn't do before, and now with Beta 2.0, we're giving them even more tools to do things that have never been possible."
According to Woods, there are a couple of reasons for the jump from 35,000 to 60,000 fishing vessels in the database. "The number of ships that use AIS has been increasing," he says, "and we've increased the number of satellites and ground receivers we receive data from. But also, as our fishing detection algorithms have improved, we've been able to identify more fishing vessels using the data we already have."
The Global Fishing Watch database only includes ships that have a statistically high confidence rate confirming their activity as fishing. Data from ship signals are often messy and incomplete. Some fishing vessels don't identify themselves as fishing vessels, but they are. Others do identify as fishing vessels, but aren't. Woods and his team have added more vessels by hand verifying the "iffy" ones against other sources of information such as registries and log books. In addition, the team's data scientists are continually updating their algorithms to distinguish fishing activity from other things such as transiting and conducting research.
"So, not only are there more vessels to see," says Woods, summarizing the value of the new release, "but we're getting better and better at seeing them and understanding what they're doing."
The launch of Beta 2.0 means everyone in the world is also getting better at seeing what's going on in the oceans.
*Any and all references to "fishing" should be understood in the context of Global Fishing Watch's fishing detection algorithm, which is a best effort to determine "apparent fishing activity" based on vessel speed and direction data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) collected via satellites and terrestrial receivers. As AIS data varies in completeness, accuracy and quality, it is possible that some fishing activity is not identified and conversely, that some fishing activity identified is not fishing. For these reasons, Global Fishing Watch qualifies all designations of vessel fishing activity, including synonyms of the term "fishing activity," such as "fishing" or "fishing effort," as "apparent," rather than certain. Any/all Global Fishing Watch information about "apparent fishing activity" should be considered an estimate and must be relied upon solely at your own risk. Global Fishing Watch is taking steps to make sure fishing activity designations are as accurate as possible.