How to find a Fishing Vessel anywhere in the world (as long as it has its IAS on) / by Francisco Blaha

In September I wrote about the public beta version of Global Fishing Watch (GFW) that is available to anyone with an Internet connection and allows users to monitor when and where commercial “apparent fishing activity" is occurring around the world.

They added a feature that may help some people doing intelligence analysis. If you now the name or identity of a specific vessel you would like to find, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to find it.

Is important to understand that AIS is not a specific Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), that is a general term to describe systems that are used in commercial fishing to allow environmental and fisheries regulatory organizations to track and monitor the activities of fishing vessels.

GFW uses data about a vessel’s identity, type, location, speed, direction and more that is broadcast using the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and collected via satellites and terrestrial receivers. But the AIS unit can be switch off anytime...

AIS was developed for safety/collision-avoidance. It is a maritime navigation safety communications system standardized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that provides vessel information, including the vessel’s identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status and other safety-related information automatically to appropriately equipped shore stations, other ships and aircraft; automatically receives such information from similarly fitted ships; monitors and tracks ships; and exchanges data with shore-based facilities.

AIS use for fisheries compliance and MCS is argued quite substantially, it can be useful in my opinion as backup system when VMS fail (until vessels come to port) of when operating in the High Seas. And while AIS is not as fisheries specific as VMS, the fact that one can individualise a vessel anywhere in the world, can only be good!

Furthermore one can "visualize" the "fishing effort", anywhere in the world is truly remarkable, and brings home the incredible amount of Chinese and Taiwanese vessels that they are fishing in the Pacific.