The role of private data platforms in addressing IUU fishing and overfishing / by Francisco Blaha

I have written in the past about the use of new tech to complement the more traditional technologies we use in MCS. In fact I have done some work with OceanMind (and I’m open to do more with them and others). I see this new technologies as further tools in a growing toolbox.

 Image copyright by OceanMind

Image copyright by OceanMind

Solutions for complex issues like IUU come in many different ways and shapes, I don't think one unique system would ever be able to do all the tricks. The people on the food safety side for years have applied what they call "Hurdle Technology" that usually works by combining more than one approach aimed to a simple outcome, and I always liked that idea.

Now, how this groups and organization would maintain themselves beyond wealthy and committed donors, is something I still have to figure out, but unlike other colleagues… I totally welcome the presence of new tech providers and I’m more than happy to work constructively with them

A new briefing by Overseas Development Institute (ODI), an independent think thank based in London has been just published: Fishing for data: The role of private data platforms in addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overfishing by Miren Gutierrez, Alfonso Daniels and Guy Jobbins

They analyse the work of some of the mostly European based “providers” and daw some conclusions about them. Is not big read (9 pages) so go to the original, in the meantime I quote the briefing presentation, key messages and conclusions.

Presentation
New technologies offer unique opportunities to support fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, particularly for countries in Africa and other regions without the means to patrol their waters or enforce legislation against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and overfishing.
This is the first comprehensive analysis of fisheries data platforms available. The briefing note highlights how developed countries and multilateral organisations have been slow to exploit these opportunities, and have failed to produce a single, effective, public global fisheries information tool. Although private initiatives tackling overfishing and IUU fishing using satellite and data technologies have emerged in recent years to bridge this gap, their potential is undermined by the limited size and insufficient quality of their datasets. Better data management and closer collaboration between these initiatives are needed, alongside improved fisheries governance and greater efforts to tackle corruption and curtail practices including the use of flags of convenience and secret fisheries agreements.
Key messages
  • New technologies offer unique opportunities to support fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, particularly for countries without the means to patrol their waters or enforce legislation against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and overfishing.
  • Developed countries and multilateral organisations have been slow to exploit these opportunities, and have failed to produce a single, effective, public global fisheries information tool.
  • Private initiatives tackling overfishing and IUU fishing using satellite and data technologies have emerged in recent years to bridge this gap, but their potential is undermined by the limited size and insufficient quality of their datasets.
  • Better data management and closer collaboration between these initiatives is needed, alongside improved fisheries governance and greater efforts to tackle corruption and curtail practices including the use of flags of convenience and secret fisheries agreements.
Conclusion
New technologies such as remote sensing and big data approaches are now common in several areas of environmental and natural resource governance. SkyTruth.org, for example, uses satellite imagery to investigate, monitor and expose oil spills, mine failures and major pollution events. Initiatives using these technologies can expose malpractice to enforcement agencies, insurers, investors and the public, and generate pressure to hold someone accountable.
The fight against IUU fishing and the unsustainable exploitation of fisheries resources could benefit greatly from data activism and support to fisheries MCS and enforcement. Increasing datafication and the expansion of data infrastructure offer new resources for fisheries management.
While governments and multilateral organisations have been slow to capitalise on these opportunities, private initiatives such as the ones described in this briefing note are filling the gap. These initiatives have different strengths and abilities. FishSpektrum’s capacity to analyse and identify individual vessels, OceanMind’s real-time analytic focus, GFW’s computational capacities, Navama’s supply-chain mapping and TMT’s focus on the organisational aspects of international fisheries crimes all address different, critical parts of the challenge. In principle, collaboration and coordination between these initiatives could create a powerful data platform much more useful than any one individual component. How such collaboration can be incentivised between private organisations who are in effect competitors, and under what framework it might be conducted, remains an open question.
Whatever route private operators take, NGOs should demand action from governments and international agencies to improve transparency. A global, centralised database of vessels known or suspected of involvement in IUU fishing would be a good first step. The creation of a worldwide unique vessel identification scheme for and database of fishing vessels has been on the international agenda for too long and with too little progress. In the absence of such resources, the ability of enforcement agencies to address these international environmental crimes is seriously curtailed.
Ultimately, big data solutions alone will not tackle over fishing or end IUU fishing. Greater political will, improved governance and policy action, anti-corruption efforts, enhanced port measures and improved international coordination are all necessary to tackle these crimes. However, these new technologies can be an important tool in the fight against over fishing and IUU fishing, if they can be effectively harnessed.