Illegal Fishing In Chilean Waters Just Got Harder – And You Can Help Catch The Bad Guys

Global Fishing Watch – click here to see the interactive version

Two weeks ago the government of Chile joined Panama, Peru, and Indonesia by making its vessel tracking data publicly available through Global Fishing Watch (GFW), which pinpoints on the above map (click on the map above) in real-time the movements of commercial fishing* vessels in Chile’s coastal ocean.   By publishing this data on the web, anyone can now remotely monitor Chile’s 700 fishing vessels and over 800 vessels that provide support for aquaculture, including governments, fishery managers, seafood buyers, researchers, and nonprofit organizations, which will make it harder for illegal fishers to evade detection.

Why This Matters:  Chile is a fishing powerhouse, and by joining the other nations that have made their similar data public, Chile is adding momentum to the movement towards greater transparency in fishing activity, which is the key to improving fisheries management and sustainability in the Pacific, and all eventually everywhere.  This is critical if we are going to have enough fish to feed people all over the world who depend on them for protein.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, almost 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted — so we need to get a handle on all the fishers who are stealing fish from the ocean.

Chile’s Enforcement Challenges

Chile is the world’s eighth-largest fishing nation — its coastline is a very long 2,500 miles — and it exports approximately $6 billion annually in seafood. The data is now available because, in 2019, the Chilean government approved a new law that modernizes Chile’s National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service and requires that the once private vessel tracking information, known as Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), be publicly available. The data also helps the government to detect activity in areas that are closed or only allow limited fishing.   The government in recent years also create three huge marine parks, which cover 450,000 square miles of ocean and protect a rich diversity of important marine life.

NGOs Ocean and Global Fishing Watch were involved in the effort from the start and the government of Chile praised their efforts.  According to Oceana, “[p]ublic sharing of VMS data, including lists of authorized vessels, helps improve surveillance and encourages vessels to comply with regulations. Unauthorized vessels, and those with a history of non-compliance, can be identified more easily and prioritized for inspections, while vessels that turn off tracking devices can be held accountable when they come into port.”

Overfishing and illegal fishing put our oceans and our global food supply at risk of collapse,” said Melissa Wright, of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “At Bloomberg Philanthropies, our Vibrant Oceans Initiative helps to increase transparency on our oceans and restore fisheries. By making its vessel data available to the world, the Chilean government is setting an example for healthier, more productive oceans.

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