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Google Ocean announced during a media session prior to the Google I/O session that it is undergoing the final stage of a partnership with Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime and Fishery to help the country fight illegal fishing with big data, according to a report by Kompas Tekno.

Global Fishing Watch (GFW), the product of a tech partnership between Google, Oceana and SkyTruth, is a platform that aims to “illuminate global fishing activity” through satellite data.

The technology is in form of an interactive web tool that visualises global fishing fleet in space and time. The general public can access the website and act as watchdog to monitor commercial fishing as it happens.

GFW first demonstrated its product at a United Nations forum, where it caught the attention of Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime and Fishery Susi Pudjiastuti.

“Months later, she contacted us to ask how to use [this technology] in Indonesia?” said Google Ocean Programme Manager Brian J. Sullivan.

However, there is a catch: Most ships are also equipped with Automatic Identifier System (AIS) technology that can be turned on and off at will, enabling them to go undetected through the GFW platform.

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How are we supposed to detect fleets that have purposely made themselves invisible?

The solution lies at the hand of Indonesian government; one that requires a move that, shall they decide to do it, then the government will become the first in the world to do so.

Sullivan then explained that every country in the world has access to a system called Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), which Google has no access to.

“Madame Susi, you have the largest VMS system in the whole world. If you’re willing to share the data in its raw form to us, then we can return it to you in a form that is easier to understand,” he said.

On November 2015, Minister Pudjiastuti finally agreed to open the database.

“No country has ever opened up this data before. [Madame Susi] is indeed very progressive, a leader in this field,” said Sullivan, adding that other countries have also expressed interest to use the technology.

Illegal fishing is one of the most challenging issues that Indonesia is facing, with the country losing IDR30 trillion (US$2.2 billion) each year.

It was one of the topics that President Joko Widodo talked about during his Silicon Valley visit in February, which was followed by another visit by Minister Pudjiastuti. It eventually led to this collaboration with GFW.

Image Credit: Gregory Bourolias on Unsplash