6% Of Global Fishing Is Possibly Illegal As Vessels Switch Off Their Tracking Devices

At least 6% of global fishing exercise is reportedly hidden owing to business vessels disabling their tracking tools, an observation used for covering up illegal fishing, based on new research.

Ships deploy computerized identification methods (AIS) and tracking beacons, enabling them to be well-positioned on global delivery maps.

Researchers used an advanced machine studying algorithm for a dataset of fishing vessel exercises that Global Fishing Watch compiled. It included more than 3.7bn AIS messages from the fishing vessels from 2017 to 2019.

They discovered geographical hotspots where ships tend to disable their trackers, with West Africa, the Argentina coast, and the northwest Pacific. The study showed that these locations are where illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is more likely to occur.

Global Fishing Is Possibly Illegal As Vessels Switch Off Their Tracking Devices
Image for representation purposes only.

IUU fishing reportedly accounts for about one-fifth of global fisheries’ catches, leading to $23.5bn in economic losses each year. It’s the third-most profitable natural resources crime after mining and timber. It’s also a significant driver behind the destruction of marine ecosystems. Besides, it has long been linked to the violation of human rights.

This is the first instance and activity wherein intentional AIS disabling was quantified and mapped globally, said Heather Welch. She is a spatial ecologist at the University of California. Before such work, they did not have a clear understanding of how massive a problem this is, where it takes place, why, and who does it.

It has been discovered that disabling AIS is a significant risk factor for “two nefarious behaviours: carrying out fishing in unauthorized locations and, of course, unauthorized transshipments.

Transhipment – the process involving the unloading of goods from one vessel to the other – can be very well used for laundering illegally gathered seafood into the supply chain. Besides, this has long been linked to human trafficking and forced labour. Illegal fishing and transhipment come with substantial environmental costs and extensive damage to national revenue and jobs.
Tuna-purse-seine fishing vessels reported the maximum levels of vessel activities obscured by the AIS disabling (about 21%). The report mentioned that this was followed by squid jiggers (about 7%) and drifting long lines and trawlers (about 5%).

China-flagged vessels reportedly have the most disabling events, followed by Taiwan, the US, and Spain. Welch further mentioned that relevant authorities could make use of “real-time information” related to disabling to help patrol at sea or carry out end-to-end inspections of ships at important ports to know the ones that had their AIS switched off in suspicious circumstances.

References: The Guardian, Pehal News

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