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Google Unveils Massive Campaign To Fight Illegal Fishing

<p><a class="checked-link" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn2JXmCUo30#t=63">Global Fishing Watch/YouTube</a></p>

Illegal fishers, beware: Google is watching.

The tech giant launched a new campaign on Friday that will use satellites to track data from over a thousand fishing vessels. The new program, called Global Fishing Watch, is a partnership between Google, Oceana and Skytruth.

The new technology will be used to visualize the movements of the global fishing fleet using Automatic Identification System (AIS), a network similar to GPS. The technology could be a saving grace for the world's fisheries, which are constantly depleted by the pressure of illegal and unreported fishing.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for an estimated 11 to 26 million tons of fish each year and $10 to $23 billion in economic losses for countries and local communities, according to Oceana.

In a blog for The Huffington Post, Andrew Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, and actor Ted Danson, a member of the organization's board, write:

We believe that knowing when, where, and how boats are fishing is an essential step to help countries better manage the world's fisheries, many of which are drastically overfished. Nearly one-third of assessed marine fish stocks worldwide have been overfished, and 90 percent were either fully fished or overfished in 2011, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The AIS data shows location, speed and direction of fishing vessels. Countries' fleets can be compared to examine overlap, and individual ships can be tracked as well. While it's still in the prototype phase, the designers have already tracked 3,000 ships and hope the data can be used to monitor and report illegal fishing, like fishing that goes on inside protected areas.

It's not a moment too soon. On Thursday, researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University reported that the world is in desperate need of a new way to protect marine reserves from illegal fishers. Because marine protected areas (MPAs) are often large and far offshore, they can be incredibly difficult to police. But using data collected over five years, the researchers found that patterns of illegal fishing coincided with certain times of the year. Knowing this information, officials could make more targeted patrols and catch illegal activity as it happens.

Efforts like these to patrol the world's oceans are imperative - with fishing operations expanding to nearly every bit of the sea, recent analyses of fish catch data suggest that some 58 percent of the world's fish stocks have already collapsed or are overexploited. And with just 2 percent of the oceans protected (compared to 12 percent of land protected), monitoring is sorely needed.