Oceana Analysis: More Fishing Vessels Should Use Public Tracking Devices

Image via Oceana.

An analysis of federal requirements for transparency of fishing vessels conducted by the conservation entity Oceana concludes that the United States’ requirements for such transparency fall short of that of other countries and the European Union.

The Oceana report notes that public vessel tracking, enabled by an automatic identification system, which was originally developed to increase maritime safety, reduce vessel collisions and enhance awareness of vessel locations at sea, but it has also become an invaluable tool for monitoring fishing vessel activity at sea.

These devices broadcast a vessel’s location, speed, direction and other identifying information, providing details that, when analyzed, can demonstrate when a vessel is fishing and infer what type of fishing it is engaged in.

The report also stated that Automatic Identification System (AIS) public tracking is an inexpensive, easy-to-implement technology and should be required on more U.S. fishing vessels and that the U.S. should require similar transparency of seafood imports.

“Expanding transparency will help bring to light suspicious behaviors, protect our ocean habitats and wildlife, and discourage illicit activity like illegal fishing and human rights abuses,” the report said.

Key findings of the report include that only 12% of over 19,000 commercial fishing vessels registered in the U.S. are required to carry AIS devices, and that expanding the requirement in the U.S. to vessels 49 feet and over would increase AIS usage by 65% covering more to 1,500 additional fishing vessels.