There are several fishing vessels which exploit the enormity of the oceans of the Earth as they believe nobody is watching. However, Lacey Malarky constantly monitors these vessels while sitting at her desk based out of downtown Washington.
Malarky makes use of a website named Global Fishing Watch. This site has been launched by the NGO she works for, Oceana, in collaboration with another nonprofit named SkyTruth and Google, less than 3 years back. The aim was to trace the whereabouts of nearly 70,000 vessels used for fishing, which have sailed starting from 2012.
This particular site conducts analysis of GPS signals that are emitted by the ships. These signals are plotted on maps to assist people like Malarky in determining whether they have ventured into protected regions, or are really operating in areas corresponding to fish species they claim to be looking for.
With the use of artificial intelligence, the site can even display the particular fishing technique that a vessel may be performing: longlining, trawling or fishing by the purse seine technique. Each of these methods has distinctive trajectory and pace and also targets particular species. The deputy VP for campaigns in the US for Oceana, Beth Lowell compared the vessel track lines on a map with a spaghetti pile. She also emphasized on how difficult it is right now to hide at sea. Explaining the mechanism, Lowell said that the special ingredient of the site is taking the hypothetical heap of spaghetti to distill down to the point of machine learning being able to infer its fishing.
However, there still exist ways of evading detection. Some ships are equipped with devices named Automatic Identification System. This system manages the ship’s GPS signals. However, this mechanism is not compulsory all over the world for vessels involved in fishing.