Global Fishing Watch, a website open to anyone with an internet connection, is being used to track movements of fishing fleets on the high seas. Google launched the website in 2016 in partnership with Oceana and SkyTruth.
The website uses big data to track movement of boats, thereby enabling governments, regulators and civil society groups to track whether fishing fleets are abiding by fishing rules. All vessels weighing over 300 tons are legally required to publicly broadcast their location at sea using a GPS-type broadcast known as an automatic identification system (AIS) data, a safety mechanism designed to prevent collisions. The Global Fishing Watch platform feeds this, along with other data sources, into a machine learning classifier that determines which vessels are fishing boats, what kind of fishing gear they are using and where they are fishing. The platform is the first public, free, interactive view of the world’s largest industrial fishing vessels. It also includes an online map that allows anyone with an internet connection to track fishing activity in near real time, from 2012 up to three days ago.