A decade ago, building an open-access picture of global fishing activity was out of reach. But thanks to advances in satellite technology and machine learning, Global Fishing Watch is now making it a reality.


Tony Long, CEO of Global Fishing Watch

Innovation is not a foreign concept to the realm of ocean conservation, and this was abundantly clear when I sat down with Tony Long, CEO of Global Fishing Watch. This organization, the very epitome of innovation, has ingeniously merged satellite technology with machine learning to metamorphose the way we monitor and manage our marine resources.

Navigating the Data Ocean with a Visionary Compass

Imagine a world where the vast and mystifying oceans become transparent and accessible, where every fishing vessel’s move is not shrouded by the deep blue but visible and accountable. Global Fishing Watch took root from a collaborative vision of Oceana, SkyTruth, and Google. Their shared recognition of the urgent need for transparency in oceanic activities led to the creation of an ambitious platform for mapping worldwide fishing activities. Imagine trying to keep tabs on the busy Manhattan streets from a skyscraper’s roof; daunting, isn’t it? Now scale it to the oceans – that’s the enormity of the challenge.

Decoding the Deluge: Turning Raw Data into Ocean Wisdom

Sitting atop a treasure trove of data collected by satellites, Global Fishing Watch faced a Herculean task: extracting meaning and insights from this deluge of information. That’s where machine learning sails in like a gallant knight. However, the sheer scope of the oceans necessitates a solution that’s expansive yet doesn’t drain the coffers. As Tony Long eloquently puts it, “…if we’re going to build a global system of monitoring, it has to be one that’s both scalable in the sense of covering that vast amount of water, but also affordable…” This philosophy is the North Star guiding the development of their monitoring systems, as they deftly turn raw data into knowledge and knowledge into ocean wisdom.

Visualizing A World Below Waves

What if we could paint a picture of the oceans’ depths and the activities within them? Global Fishing Watch’s technology allows just that. Through map visualizations, it provides a graphical tapestry of the seas. Each fishing vessel becomes more than a dot on the map; it tells a story. As you click on these vessels, a cascade of information is unveiled, from its authorization status to fishing areas. As Long keenly observes, “A picture paints a thousand words.” This technology doesn’t just paint a picture; it opens a window to the very soul of the ocean.

The Open Ocean Project: Sowing Seeds for a Sustainable Future

Tony Long spoke of the Open Ocean Project with the excitement of a cartographer who has just mapped uncharted lands. This project is like a bountiful harvest of data and insights into human activities at sea. But Tony Long stresses the importance of sharing this harvest.

He poignantly states,

“…in the world of fisheries, I truly believe that shared knowledge is where the power is.”

This information is fundamental for making informed decisions about ocean governance. The seas do not belong to one man, entity, or nation; they are shared heritage and a shared responsibility.

Global Fishing Watch is steering us into uncharted waters, where technology, transparency, and collaboration are the currents guiding us towards sustainable oceans. Our marine resources, once thought inexhaustible, are not impervious to the toll of human activity. However, through the lens of innovation and the spirit of collaboration, we are charting a course toward preservation and sustainability. Let’s hoist the sails of change together.

Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Share This: