Developing coastal countries throughout the world have major small-boat fleets, but we have little understanding of these fleets’ fishing efforts because of high barriers to basic on-board technologies. In Indonesia alone, artisanal fishers account for 95% of wild-capture production. We’re committed to building a scalable solution for small-boat traceability to answer the need for reliable catch data collection. To get there, we’re driven by two primary goals: better manage coastal fisheries and maximize the catch value for small-boat fishers.

In partnership with Pelagic Data Systems (PDS) and Global Fishing Watch, we will be scaling the program from 20 to 100 lightweight passive tracking devices on artisanal fishing vessels. Global Fishing Watch will publish the data of the new and existing PDS units, free and available to the public. The platform officially launched at the Our Ocean conference hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington DC earlier this month. CEO Bill Stride was on hand for the announcement.

Global Fishing Watch, a joint venture between Google, Oceana and SkyTruth, maps fishing effort  in real-time by tracking large vessels through the vessel Automatic Identification Signal (AIS), and now, small vessels through PDS transponders. You can view all fishing activity on the Global Fishing Watch interactive heat map (sign up for your free account to view here).

“Vessel location transparency for the global fishing fleet is a game changer. Global Fishing Watch makes it possible to understand catch locations and control harvest, cornerstones of sustainable fishing,” explained our President and founder Jerry Knecht. “Now that we are scaling the electronic tracking of the small boat fleet, we can begin to fill in the coastal vessel location and harvest picture, allowing for effective management at all levels of harvest.”


PDS pilot data traced over fishing grounds off of Sumbawa

We completed a successful  20-boat pilot with PDS tracking Ahi tuna caught off Sumbawa in the Indonesian archipelago in 2015. Over 5,000 lbs of fully traceable Ahi tuna from artisanal boats was delivered to our pilot customer. The positive response to the product, from both our customer and the end-consumer, signals real interest in the story behind the fish. Additional tracking units allows us to expand capacity and continue telling the story of the unique supply chain. This program addresses a data gap, as artisanal boats are not typically outfitted with the same tracking technology as the large-scale fishing fleet. Expanding monitoring beyond the initial pilot further improves transparency across the small-boat fishing fleets of the developing world.

By outfitting small vessels with the means to track product from boat-to-beach, this program will help increase the value of the seafood harvested by participating small boat fishers, will provide robust data about fishing activity to inform sustainable management practices, and will demonstrate a novel, cost-effective transparency approach that can be scaled globally.

“We’re excited to see Global Fishing Watch used as a positive market incentive, helping producers move toward greater transparency in their operations,” said Brian Sullivan, Google’s lead on the project.

“This collaboration takes us one step closer to ridding the world of illegal fishing,” said Dave Solomon, PDS’s CEO. “We are fortunate to be at a place where we have the technology, the partnerships and the momentum to make fishing activity as transparent as possible.”