New technology gives the first-ever global look at the hidden

Washington, DC, June 8, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Global Fishing Watch has developed and released to public the first global map of hitherto undiscovered dark fleets or ships that do not broadcast their location or appear in public surveillance systems.

Powered by satellite radar images and machine learning, the map layer is updated daily in the main Global Fishing Watch map application. The portal is available free of charge to anyone in the world with an internet connection, helping authorities, researchers and the public to monitor ship activity in all coastal waters, identify dark fleet models and build the necessary understanding to quantify ocean threats. The user-friendly new map layer helps to create equal access to sea-related data, in time for World Ocean Day on 8 June.

The lack of information on how and where vessels fish has clouded our understanding of the true global footprint of fishing. This makes meaningful change difficult. To see these impacts, satellite radar technology, known as synthetic aperture radar (SAR), operates day and night in all weather conditions and can generate images despite cloud cover or storm systems, leading to detection capabilities that are significantly more advanced than other satellites. mounted sensors.

“It’s surprising how little we know so far about the true scale of human activity in the water,” said David Krudsma, director of research and innovation at Global Fishing Watch. “If you combine ships that deliberately turn off their signal with a significant number of boats that do not report their location to public systems at all, you will end up with gaps in data, surveillance and reporting. We use satellite radar images to reduce this information gap and put our findings at the fingertips of those who want to ensure that our ocean is governed fairly and sustainably. ”

The new layer of the global map draws on a massive data pipeline and uses machine learning to break up petabytes or millions of gigabytes of radar images taken by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellites. By analyzing the entire Sentinel-1 radar image archive, Global Fishing Watch made 20 million detections of sea-going vessels more than approximately 10 meters long and compared those detections to 100 billion GPS points of ships transmitting their position to the automatic automaton. identification system. This coincidence distinguishes ships that broadcast their position from those that remain dark in public surveillance systems, leading to a more comprehensive picture of the movement of ships across the global ocean. This information can help authorities identify areas of suspicious activity and identify vessel models that may show illegal activity or previously unmeasured fishing pressure.

Global Fishing Watch uses satellite radar and optical imaging to detect about 900 ships of Chinese origin fishing illegally in North Korean waters in violation of UN sanctions – the largest known case of illegal fishing by the industrial fleet operating in the waters of another nation. Since then, Global Fishing Watch has improved and expanded the use of satellite radar to explore unprecedented fishing activities near marine protected areas in the Mediterranean and hotspots of previously hidden activity in coastal waters around Africa. This emerging method of “seeing” vessels reveals that the ocean is much busier than conventional surveillance systems show.

“Although there are often legitimate reasons for not broadcasting the ship’s location – not all governments require it – illegal operators often turn off their signals to cover up their activities,” Crowdsma added. “Using satellite radar to detect and map previously hidden and potentially illegal or harmful activities has opened up a new realm of remote sensing capabilities and the battle for major environmental technologies.”

Increasing the potential of satellite radar technology, Global Fishing Watch partnered with the Department of Defense Innovation in July 2021 to host the xView3 competition. The challenge invited machine learning developers from around the world to create and submit computer algorithms to help detect dark vessels, attracting 1,900 registrants from 67 countries. Global Fishing Watch is using the winning bids announced earlier this year to refine and refine methods of detecting dark vessels globally and expects to be able to shed light on many human activities in the ocean in the near future.

“By seeing and characterizing the activities of these vast dark fleets, we can begin to understand and quantify not only illegal fishing, but also much of the human activity that affects our marine environment,” said Paul Woods, chief innovation officer. in Global Fishing. I’m watching. “These are exciting times when it comes to open, accessible data that anyone can use for free to understand and advocate for the fragile marine areas they are most interested in.”

About satellite radar images: Satellite radar is able to overcome the limitations of other satellite surveillance systems with its ability to see through rain, darkness and cloud cover. Radar can detect vessels and structures in all weather conditions, and its imaging capabilities make it one of the most powerful remote monitoring tools. Satellite radar is an active sensor that shoots microwaves to the earth’s surface and measures the amplitude and phase of signals that are reflected back from land and water objects known as backscattering. The images formed by this backscatter contain rich information about the size, orientation, composition, condition and texture of the water elements. These imaging systems have an advantage over passive satellite sensors, such as electro-optical images, which are similar to taking a picture with a camera and rely on sunlight and / or infrared radiation emitted by objects on earth. The latter method can be confused with cloudiness, fog, meteorological phenomena and seasonal darkness at high latitudes. Satellite radar for comparison proved to be the most consistent option for detecting vessels at sea.

Global fishing clock is an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving the governance of the ocean through increased transparency of human activities at sea. By creating and publicly sharing map visualizations, data, and analysis tools, we seek to enable research and transform the way our oceans are governed. We believe that human activity at sea must be in the public domain in order to protect the global ocean for the common good of all.

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