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Experts estimate that one out of every five fish sold was caught illegally. They say $23.5 billion in illegal fish are sold each year. Illegal fishing threatens food security and hurts the environment. Now, officials are using new observational technology to fight it.
Tony Long heads the Ending Illegal Fishing program for Pew Charitable Trusts. The program is called Project Eyes on the Seas. Large three-dimensional images of a globe can be seen on a video that plays behind him. The screen shows 120,000 fishing boats that have an automated information system, or AIS. It is required technology for ships. But, those who are fishing illegally often turn theirs off. Project Eyes on the Seas combines satellite information with secret government records on every ship’s past activities. Mr. Long says that permits investigators to understand exactly where the fishing boats are operating. The Pew team gives the information to port officials. It helps them decide whether to take action against a ship. Tony Long says he wants to be able to provide information to port officials all over the world. Officials could then decide which ships should be banned, or need inspection. The Pacific island nation of Palau was an early user of the technology. Palau has one of the richest fishing areas in the world, and wants to protect it. Last year, it announced a plan to ban commercial fishing in a 630,000 square kilometer area. K.B. Sakuma is a special adviser to Palau’s president. He says Palau is trying to deal with a recent increase in illegal, and unreported fishing. Mr. Sakuma hopes the project will help Palau fight fishing piracy.