Celebrating World Fisheries Day: Global Fishing Watch Will Have Positive Implications for New England’s Fisheries

Peter Shelley | @peashell47

“You can’t help in Massachusetts but to come from a tradition of the ocean. Our state was founded on it.” Secretary of State John Kerry said this at the third annual Our Ocean conference this September, speaking at a reception celebrating Global Fishing Watch.

A new publicly accessible and free platform, Global Fishing Watch tracks the activity of 35,000 (and growing) commercial fishing vessels around the world, allowing for real data capture and transparency in the locations being fished.

According to Oceana, which released the platform with partners Google and SkyTruth, Global Fishing Watch “delivers a powerful and unprecedented tool that can help to rebuild fish stocks and protect our oceans, which are threatened by global overfishing, illegal fishing and habitat destruction.”

This is a good sign for New England and for legal fishermen everywhere, for a few reasons:

First, better tracking of commercial fishing vessels could allow for better oversight and enforcement, cracking down on IUU fishing – an industry term for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. IUU fishing is a global threat; many of these fishing vessels lack the strong and effective conservation measures U.S. fishermen must attend to (along with a host of other issues).

Reducing IUU fishing would make New England sustainably-caught products more competitive, contributing to stronger fisheries and therefore more thriving coastal economies. New electronic tools like Global Fishing Watch will help level the playing field so that law-abiding fishermen are not disadvantaged by the law-breakers.

Second, Global Fishing Watch will allow enhanced remote monitoring of marine protected areas like the newly-created Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, ensuring these areas are being kept off limits to prohibited activity, allowing marine life there to thrive. It goes without saying that marine protected areas can only work if they are truly protected, and if those protections are monitored to the best of our ability.

This platform facilitates that monitoring; helping to ensure the rules are enforced. Healthier oceans are more resilient oceans and will be better equipped to weather the impacts of climate change. Global Fishing Watch will help lead to healthier oceans. This is an excellent marriage of technological innovation and our ocean’s immediate and important conservation needs.

Using this technology allows us to more easily maintain the balance between preserving our ecological treasures and industry activity. More data can make this a reality. Knowledge is power, as they say. And it can be done without the additional allocation of resources.

CLF has long been committed to pushing for management of our fisheries and ocean resources that will achieve long-term results and help coastal communities thrive. We look forward to the positive outcomes this new innovation could contribute to our goal of sustainably-managed fisheries for generations to come.

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