Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Harbouring information: combating illegal fishing

Harbouring information: combating illegal fishing
16 Jan
2018
East African countries are sharing shipping data in order to combat illegal fishing practices

Illegal fishing is considered to be one of the biggest challenges for countries on the Western Indian Ocean coast. The most recent report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation found that ‘today, one out of every five fish is caught illegally in the western Indian Ocean region’. It’s an activity that depletes fish populations, threatens ocean health and steals from local fishing communities.

To fight back against such illegal fishing, eight countries bordering the Western Indian Ocean are using data-sharing technology to share valuable information about sea-going vessels. Named Fish-i, the initiative allows major ports in each country to pool information about criminal fishing activity, instead of spending precious time and resources chasing suspicious vessels across the sea.

Fish-i gives the participating countries (Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania) the option to share remote sensing data in real-time and support each other with on the ground assistance.

‘This intelligence information may include vessels’ movement, vessels calling to port, illegal fish products, vessels fishing position and ownership history,’ says Nicholas Mwanza, chairperson of the Fish-i task force in Kenya. He sees the main benefit as being the latter of these attributes, especially as many vessels can appear legal. For example, some vessels might claim to be another ship, or there may be multiple boats all operating under one valid license.

Sharing data has revealed some surprises. Initially, it was thought that the majority of boat owners were intending on complying with the shipping rules and regulations, and would only occasionally be found to be exploiting loopholes in the rules. In the latest report, however, Fish-i analysts found that ‘a significant number’ of operators set out with illegal intentions, with a remarkable 80 per cent of their investigations revealing intentionally illegal activity.

‘They [boat owners] do this through falsifying information, forging documents, hiding company information behind secretive shelf companies and flags of non-compliance,’ says Sandy Davies, co-creator of Fish-i and co-ordinator of Stop Illegal Fishing, an independent, African-based, non-profit organisation committed to ending the devastating impacts of illegal fishing. More troubling was the revelation that those 26 per cent of reported incidences were also involved in ‘sinister’ crimes, such as smuggling and human trafficking.

To combat the level of illegal activity, Fish-i’s creators have launched ‘VIGILANCE’, a programme, cross-checking the documentation and appearance of 500 vessels holding a ‘right to fish’. Once the countries know which boats are legal, it should be easier to spot those that are out of place. 

This was published in the January 2018 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

LATEST HEADLINES

Subscribe to Geographical!

University of Winchester

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Geophoto

With the recent Saddleworth Moor fire, it can be easy…

Wildlife

Whale sharks have been found to not travel far from…

Wildlife

The Lone Star tick is spreading across North America, carrying…

Tectonics

Earlier this week, Indonesia was struck by a series of…

Energy

Efforts to reduce the energy drain of the internet are…

Energy

Coal’s rising popularity among climate-apathetic leaders is a worrying trend,…

Climate

Sharing the ideas of climate justice with a little humour…

Polar

Rising bedrock under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could prevent…

Oceans

Officially declared the world’s ‘most overfished sea’, the Mediterranean is…

Wildlife

An interview with biologist Chris D Thomas, author of ‘Inheritors…

Geophoto

Some may see using the 50mm lens as a regressive…

Oceans

With the war against plastic gaining publicity and popularity, one…

Wildlife

India’s booming domestic dog population is attacking some of the…

Energy

Soaring sales of air conditioning units over the next thirty…

Climate

Well-meaning promises and actions don't always have the best outcomes.…

Geophoto

With the days at their longest and more light in…

Oceans

Tourism might be an economic pillar for many countries surrounding…

Wildlife

Brain sizes directly shown to correlate to survival rates among…

Wildlife

Celebrated author Professor Tim Birkhead provides a fascinating insight into…

Oceans

The world’s most biodiverse seagrass region – Indonesia’s Coral Triangle…