Every angler knows what their daily catch limit is whether they’re standing on a dock at the cottage or heading out to sea with a crew. There’s a fish for every season, and a season for every fish. The laws protecting some bodies of water prohibit gas motors, while others require that a vessel be thoroughly decontaminated before entering. Laws and regulations like these are in place to protect the environment at large, to support the specific needs of individual ecosystems, and to ensure fishing sustainability globally and for populations whose food sources are dependent upon fishing. And we would be remiss not to point out that 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. The adherence to these regulations, no matter where you fish, is vital to our planet, which is why international lawmakers are cracking down on illegal fishing in a big way.
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing leaves in its wake rippling, crippling effects on the planet, the fishing industry, all the way down the supply chain to your dining table. Broken down into three sub categories, IUU fishing consists of:
- Illegal fishing: Fishing without permission in a regulated waterway or otherwise breaking laws.
- Unreported Fishing: Not disclosing to authorities that a vessel is fishing, or misrepresenting the size of the catch.
- Unregulated Fishing: Fishing outside of the vessel’s permitted waters or regulated zones.
Looking at the big picture, in 2016 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that IUU fishing is worth between $10 billion and $26 billion USD with the global catch believed to be anywhere from 11 million tonnes to 26 million tonnes of fish. While most reports of IUU fishing come from the areas of the world least regulated by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), IUU fishing happens everywhere.
The environmental impact of IUU fishing also ripples and cripples. Illegal vessels can further pollute both the waterways and the air, don’t take precautions to avoid hauling protected species, and disrupt food chains both below and above water.
In addition to economic protection, RMFOs exist to preserve aquatic ecosystems and fishing sustainability. Consequences of breaking RMFO regulations are steep and can include turning vessels away from port, prohibiting vessels from unloading their catch, and losing the vessel altogether.
In order to enforce regulations, those involved in IUU fishing have to be caught, but it hasn’t been feasible for authorities to check on the activity of every vessel worldwide.
Satellite technology is crucial to the success of policing maritime criminal behaviour, and exactEarth tracking plays a key role. By the laws that governs international waters, all ships of a certain size must be equipped with AIS tracking, but smaller boats historically weren’t as accountable, mostly because equipping the millions of small boats on our waters was too costly of an endeavour.
exactTrax is real-time AIS for smaller vessels, like fishing boats, which utilizes battery-powered transmitters with cost-effective subscription options as opposed to charges per message. As of June 2017, exactTrax is available to integrate with all AIS transceiver manufacturers, with a variety of transceivers available to suit the needs of the individual vessel. The adaptability of exactTrax means safer seas for everyone. The transponder can be configured to broadcast AIS signals at port, then switch to the advanced exactTrax secure messaging when fishing to ensure vessels of all size are accountable and accounted for to the appropriate authority and yet their secret spot remains secret.
This provides a low-cost, easy to implement solution to truly monitor fishing activity worldwide. With the advent of real-time communication and tracking abilities, authorities can act immediately to circumvent criminal fishing activity before its impact is irreversible.