A global footprint on Transhipments / by Francisco Blaha

Back in November 2014 and then later September 2016, I wrote about the Global Fishing Watch initiative as a compelling web based tool that while limited regarding MSC (Monitoring, Control and Surveillance), it had a unique value as to show the positions and share amount of fishing and carrier vessels involved in “apparent fishing activity" occurring around the world.

From the Oceana report

From the Oceana report

This week, they hope to make another splash by not just mapping global fishing activity, but by providing an unprecedented view of very specific activity by a very specific class of vessels around the world: Fish carriers/reefers 

Today, at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Indonesia, Brian Sullivan, Google’s lead for Global Fishing Watch, presented the results of our their analysis that produced the first-ever global footprint of transhipment. They released the data and analysis of these transshipments in a free report titled The Global View of Transshipment: Preliminary Findings.

At the same time, Oceana is publishing a complementary report exposing the global scale of transhipment and its potential for facilitating suspicious behaviours like illegal fishing and human rights abuses. 

In the commercial fishing industry, large refrigerated cargo ships collect catch from multiple fishing boats and carry it back to port. This practice of transhipment enables fishing vessels to continue fishing, which reduces fuel costs for fishing vessels and gets the catch to port more quickly. 

That’s why it is illegal in many cases, and it is why the ability to monitor refrigerated cargo vessels and identify when and where transhipment happens can play a significant role in reducing illegal activity at sea.

Their analysis of 21 billion AIS messages from ships on the ocean between 2012 and 2016 identified 90% of the world’s reefer vessels (794 reefers compared to the 882 identified in 2010 according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.) 

When they applied a new algorithm we developed to finding telltale transhipment behaviour, such as drifting long enough to receive a transfer of catch, the results revealed 86,490 instances of “potential transshipments.” Drilling down through these 86,490 occurrences, they identified 5,065 confirmed rendezvouses between a reefer and a fishing vessel. They have labelled these “likely transshipments.”

In the new report, they outline our methodology for developing the algorithm and identifying important patterns in the data such as clustering of transshipment activity along the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ’s) of certain countries, and a lower prevalence of transshipment around countries with comparatively good management, such as in North America and Europe, when compared to regions with higher suspected levels of IUU fishing.

The data also show that transhipment is clearly a pan-national problem that involves ships registered to a diverse array of countries operating on the high seas and offshore waters around the world and far from their home ports.

Their preliminary report represents our first steps toward increasing transparency of the previously hidden practice of transhipment at sea. There is more work ahead for them as they continue to mine data for still more data to mine, and more. It is no doubt an interesting field that while of limited enforcement impact, it bring public attention and scrutiny to activities that until now were largely away from anyone's attention, and that is GOOD news

Download the free report and the supporting data here!

Learn about a companion report released by Oceana.

Read about how our  SkyTruth captured satellite images of a Thai reefer in a likely transhipment in a remote part of the Indian Ocean.

Source: Global Fishing Watch Blog