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How Google Is Working To Curb Illegal Fishing

By Brian Spaen

Is that fish you’re eating coming from an illegal transaction in the high seas? With the United States importing around 90 percent of the seafood we eat, there’s a good chance of it happening. Illegal transshipment is responsible for over $23 billion in economic loss. It’s been hard to monitor in the past, but new technology could aid in stopping the process. 

Thanks to a collaboration by Google, Oceana, and SkyTruth, anyone has the power to view where ships are located. This works in part because many boats need to have an identification system to avoid crashing into each other. Then, GPS systems are able to track the activity of these vessels, suggesting that with closer monitoring and more accountability, less illegal trade will happen.

Transshipment itself isn’t illegal. It happens when a fishing boat transfers its supply over to a reefer and eliminates the process of docking the boat on land. Since catching fish is both competitive and lengthy, these vessels would rather spend more time out in the waters than having to find a place to unload their cargo.

Problems arise, however, when some of this fishing is manipulated. There are laws that try to prevent people from using equipment that could give them an unfair advantage or allow them to fish where they shouldn’t be. Not only could this harm habitat for the fish, but it strongly affects the supply chain and the seafood economy. Without proper monitoring, billions of dollars have been lost due to illegal activity.