WWF: new approach to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing | WWF

WWF: new approach to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Posted on 26 September 2012
Satellite tracking of fishing vessels in international waters
© WWF&Navama

Gland, Switzerland - WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative has presented today a new, simple, effective and inexpensive way to use satellite data with the aim to monitor global fisheries activities and curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, one of the biggest impediments to achieving sustainable fisheries. 

Using the “Automatic Identification System” (AIS) first introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in December 2000 for safety reasons, WWF shows how AIS data will enable governments to retrace the routes and fishing activities of vessels all over the world, improving sustainable fisheries management in national waters and, on the high seas, by revealing where IUU activity could potentially be taking place.  

WWF evaluated AIS data of the last one and a half years from satellite operator ORBCOMM, using a specific methodology developed by the Smart Fishing Initiative, and found out it has become possible to retrace the routes and activities of fishing vessels, including vessels that are suspected of illegal fishing. 

“We wanted to find out what is really happening out there when vessels are fishing and trans-shipping on the high seas”, says Alfred Schumm, Leader of WWF´s Smart Fishing Initiative. “After all, illegal and uncontrolled fishing is a hard nut to crack - it causes ecological and economic damage worldwide that affects all of us; fishing communities, fishing companies, governments, buyers and consumers.”

The European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) sets fishing quotas, marine protected areas and international Fisheries Partnership Agreements to preserve the oceans ecosystem and fish stocks. But the current CFP is failing: in European waters two-thirds of commercially used fish stocks are still overfished. Monitoring, control and implementation of EU regulation is weak; EU vessels operating under Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPA), Joint Ventures or on the High Seas are even more poorly managed, where monitoring and effective control is ineffective. Globally, one in five fish would come from IUU sources1

“We found that the satellite AIS, an internationally recognized standard, is a reliable supplier of data to improve transparency in all fishing practices taking place in national waters and on the high seas. It ´s a great tool that can help EU governments to monitor and implement sustainable fisheries regulations,” explains Schumm. “The EU should make this system mandatory for every commercial fishing vessel.” 
In the EU, European fishing vessels longer than 24 meters are obliged to have the AIS system installed. The same rule applies to foreign fishing vessels that are fishing or landing fish in the EU. 

WWF urges the EU to improve this regulation, and to make the AIS system mandatory for all commercial vessels as soon as possible in addition to monitoring and control (M&C) measures currently being used such as Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS).  

“To bring about credible changes that will enhance sustainable fisheries practices, governments need to ensure their rules are complied with, hence all EU fishing vessels as well as non-EU vessels landing at EU ports should have installed the AIS system at once and keep it in operation day and night, ” commented Schumm. 

1. European Commission, 2007: On a new strategy for the Community to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, COM (2007) 601 final)

Source of the article


About AIS and satellite-aided transparency
The heart of the system is the internationally established anti-collision “Automatic Identification System” (AIS). Via satellite it supplies data for identifying a ship: name, size, position and further details of the vehicles are transmitted and even the speed of a vessel can be determined.

The AIS was introduced as a mandatory standard of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in December 2000. Under this standard nearly every ship today is equipped with this technology – for its own safety. From a size of 300 gross register tons ships have to install an AIS device, thus making them clearly identifiable and verifiable. 

Data and findings
The current evaluation shows, for example, that fish catches of 111 industrial ships of varying origin off the coast of West Africa were mainly landed in the EU. The vessels fish in national or international waters off the coast of West Africa and in most cases then head directly for the Spanish port of Las Palmas de Gran Canarias. This makes it possible to verify in detail that Europe is supplied with fish from West Africa. 

Advantages and opportunities
The AIS technology is applicable and operational worldwide. It can be established easily and inexpensively as an international standard for transparent fishing.

Ships that previously escaped identification, such as by means of false data, are deprived of their anonymity. Thus, the race for the last fish resources can be stopped by means of sustainable management.

More information:
Alfred Schumm, Director, WWF Global Fisheries Programme, Smart Fishing Initiative: Tel. +49 151 188549 26 or Edith Verhoestraete, Communications, Smart Fishing Initiative edith.verhoestraete@wwf.panda.org Tel: + 34 627 829 369 
Satellite tracking of fishing vessels in international waters
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