Environmentalist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio unveiled on September 15 a new Google-powered technology tool named Global Fishing Watch. It allows people from every corner of the world to monitor more than 35.000 commercial fishing vessels in the planet. This new technology would help to identify, prevent, and reduce illegal fishing.

Global Fishing Watch works as a satellite service that provides data from the Earth’s seas and vessels. It is available for everyone who has a computer connected to the Internet. It will also allow governments, journalists, and all citizens to act as watchdogs, tracking the movement and activities of boats. Additionally, it will help States which have limited resources to identify fishermen who are illegally depleting the oceans. Illegal fishing accounts for 35 percent of all caught fish in the world, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Illegal fishing
A fleet of illegal Chinese fishing vessels in South Korean territory. Image credit: World Ocean Review.

“We have to find a way to enforce [fishing laws],” Secretary of State John Kerry said at the conference for ocean preservation in Washington, D.C. “We have to find a way to monitor it. And that’s very difficult in vast oceans with resources that are [limited]. We’re trying to create accountability where there is very little,” added Kerry.

Power in the hands of anyone with a computer

The satellite service Global Fishing Watch seeks to engage people in the protection of oceanic habitats. It is partially funded by Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation, which contributed with $6 million out of the total $10.3 million that the project cost.

The map was created by Google Earth Outreach, a part of Google that uses the company’s infrastructure to develop environment-friendly tools and projects.

Global Fishing Watch
“Over the course of the year, 200,000+ vessels, including more than 35,000 known or likely commercial fishing boats, broadcast their position, course, and speed through AIS,” said Global Fishing Watch. Image credit: Oceana/The Washington Post.

The project also involves Oceana, an international ocean advocacy organization, and Sky Truth, a non-profit organization that shares satellite images in defense of the natural resources.

Environmentalists hope that this tool will prevent those who overfish or intrude in protected areas from doing so.  Illegal fishing is a threat to local populations, small economies, and oceanic habitat.

As the world’s population continues to grow, enforcing fishing regulations and protecting oceanic species becomes fundamental to ensure a sustainable food source. Now, Global Fishing Watch tracks the most important vessels each day.

Leonardo Dicaprio: The environmentalist behind the cameras

Leonardo DiCaprio, who unveiled this technology tool at the 2016 conference for ocean preservation in Washington on Thursday, assured that it will put pressure on the fishing industry to play nice.

Furthermore, he said it would be a first step to making people conscious of the importance of oceans. “This platform will empower citizens across the globe to become powerful advocates for our oceans,” said DiCaprio.

The 41-year-old actor has long been interested in the environment. He established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998, few years after the Titanic’s success, as a non-profit organization devoted to promoting environmental awareness focusing on climate change, the preservation of biodiversity and the support to new energy sources.

DiCaprio has been a supporter of several environment-related organizations such as World Wildlife Fund and International fund for Animal Welfare. In 2014, he was appointed as the United Nations representative on climate change. He also made an opening statement to members of the 2014 UN Climate Summit and spoke at the Paris Conference last December.

Source: The Washington Post