Emerging technology gives for the first time a holistic view of what is hidden


Washington, DC, June 08, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Global Fishing Watch has developed and released the first-ever global map of previously undetected dark fleets, or vessels that do not broadcast their location or appear in systems. public surveillance.

Powered by satellite radar imagery and machine learning, the map layer is updated daily in the main Global Fishing Watch map application. The portal is available free of charge to anyone in the world with an internet connection, helping authorities, researchers and the public to harness the power to monitor vessel activity in all coastal waters, identify patterns of dark fleets and develop the understanding needed to quantify threats to the ocean. The new user-friendly map layer helps create equitable access to marine data in time for World Oceans Day on June 8.

The lack of information about how and where vessels fish has clouded our understanding of the true global footprint of fishing activity. This makes meaningful change difficult. To see these impacts, satellite-based radar technology, known as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), operates day and night in all types of weather and can generate images despite cloud cover or weather systems. thunderstorm, resulting in detection capabilities that are significantly advanced compared to other satellites. mounted sensors.

“It’s surprising how little we know about the true extent of human activity on the water,” said David Kroodsma, director of research and innovation at Global Fishing Watch. “If you combine vessels that intentionally cut off their signal with the significant number of vessels that do not make their location known to public systems at all, you end up with gaps in data, oversight and accountability. We use satellite radar imagery to reduce this information gap and bring our findings to those who want to ensure our ocean is managed equitably and sustainably.

The new global map layer relies on a huge data processing pipeline and uses machine learning to process petabytes, or millions of gigabytes, of radar images taken by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellites . By analyzing the entire Sentinel-1 radar image archive, Global Fishing Watch made 20 million detections of seagoing vessels over approximately 10 meters in length and matched these detections to 100 billion vessel GPS points. broadcasting their position on the automatic network. identification system. This correspondence differentiates vessels that broadcast their position from those that remain dark in public monitoring systems, resulting in more comprehensive views of vessel movements across the global ocean. This information can help authorities identify areas of suspicious activity and identify vessel patterns that may indicate illegal activity or previously unquantified fishing pressures.

Global Fishing Watch used satellite radar and optical imagery to reveal approximately 900 Chinese-origin vessels illegally fishing in North Korean waters in violation of United Nations sanctions – the largest known case of illegal fishing by an industrial fleet operating in the waters of another country. Since then, Global Fishing Watch has improved and expanded its use of satellite radar to study unprecedented fishing activity near marine protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea and previously hidden hotspots of activity in coastal waters around Africa. This emerging method of “seeing” ships reveals that the ocean is much busier than conventional monitoring systems show.

“While there are often legitimate reasons for not broadcasting a vessel’s location – not all governments require it – illegal operators often turn off their signals to conceal their activity,” Kroodsma added. “The use of satellite radar to detect and map previously hidden and potentially illegal or harmful activities has opened up a new realm of possibilities for remote sensing and the battle of big technologies for the environment.”

Amplifying the potential of satellite radar technology, Global Fishing Watch partnered with the Defense Innovation Unit in July 2021 to host the xView3 competition. The challenge invited machine learning developers from around the world to create and submit computer algorithms to help detect darkships, attracting 1,900 registrants from 67 countries. Global Fishing Watch is using the winning entries announced earlier this year to refine and advance methods for detecting dark vessels globally, and hopes to shed light on many human activities on the ocean in the near future.

“By seeing and characterizing the activity of these vast dark fleets, we can begin to better understand and quantify not only illegal fishing, but much of the human activity that impacts our marine environment,” said said Paul Woods, director of innovation at Global Fishing. Look. “These are exciting times when it comes to open and accessible data that anyone can use for free to understand and defend the fragile marine areas that matter most to them.”

About Satellite Radar Imagery: Satellite radar is able to overcome the limitations of other satellite surveillance systems with its ability to see through rain, darkness and cloud cover. Radar can detect ships and structures at sea in all weather conditions and its imaging capabilities make it one of the most powerful remote sensing tools. Satellite radar is an active sensor that sends microwaves to the earth’s surface and measures the magnitude and phase of signals reflected from objects on the ground and in water, known as backscatter. The images formed from this backscatter contain rich information about the size, orientation, composition, state and texture of features on the water. These imaging systems have an advantage over passive satellite sensors, such as electro-optical imaging, which is similar to shooting with a camera and relies on sunlight and/or infrared radiation. emitted by objects on the ground. The latter method can be disrupted by cloud cover, haze, weather events, and seasonal darkness at high latitudes. Satellite radar, by comparison, has proven to be the most consistent option for detecting ships at sea.

Global Fisheries Monitoring is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing ocean governance through increased transparency of human activity at sea. By creating and publicly sharing map visualizations, data and analysis tools, we aim to enable scientific research and transform the way our ocean is managed. We believe that human activity at sea must be known to the public in order to protect the global ocean for the common good of all.

  • Satellite radar reveals dark vessels


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