The Pew Charitable Trusts has announced the launch of a project designed to help authorities monitor, detect, and respond to illegal fishing activities across the world's oceans.
Developed in partnership with Satellite Applications Catapult, a British company, Project Eyes on the Seas will analyze live satellite tracking data from multiple sources and link it to information about a ship’s country of origin and ownership history. The system also will be able to provide a snapshot of real-time data that can alert officials to suspicious vessel movements.
According to Pew, the value of the catch entering world markets from illegal fishing activities is as much as $23.5 billion, while in some regions as much as 40 percent of the catch is thought to have been caught illegally. To combat such activities, Project on the Seas will launch initially with the "Virtual Watch Room," an effort to monitor the remote waters around Easter Island, a Chilean territory in the eastern Pacific, and the island nation of Palau in the western Pacific. Both countries, in partnership with Pew, are working to establish large reserves to protect the near-pristine marine habitats in their waters. Over the next three years, the project will scale in scope and capability as more countries, regional fisheries management organizations, and retail groups commit to selling only legally caught seafood.
"Project Eyes on the Seas is designed to transform the current very expensive and patchy system of information gathering into a global system for identifying and tracking illegal fishing vessels that is far more cost-effective," said Joshua Reichert, executive vice president and head of Pew's environment program. "This system will enable authorities to share information on those vessels operating outside of the law, build a comprehensive case against them, track them into port or within reach of enforcement vessels, and take action against them."