A global footprint on transshipments

Categories Op-Eds: Tuna newsbeat insightsPosted on

Republished from Franciso Blaha’s blog, 24 February 2017

by Francisco Blaha


Back in November 2014 and then later September 2016, I wrote about the Global Fishing Watch initiative as a compelling web based tool that while limited regarding MSC (Monitoring, Control and Surveillance), it had a unique value as to show the positions and share amount of fishing and carrier vessels involved in “apparent fishing activity” occurring around the world.

This week, they hope to make another splash by not just mapping global fishing activity, but by providing an unprecedented view of very specific activity by a very specific class of vessels around the world: Fish carriers/reefers 

Today, at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Indonesia, Brian Sullivan, Google’s lead for Global Fishing Watch, presented the results of our their analysis that produced the first-ever global footprint of transhipment. They released the data and analysis of these transshipments in a free report titled The Global View of Transshipment: Preliminary Findings.

At the same time, Oceana is publishing a complementary report exposing the global scale of transhipment and its potential for facilitating suspicious behaviours like illegal fishing and human rights abuses.

In the commercial fishing industry, large refrigerated cargo ships collect catch from multiple fishing boats and carry it back to port. This practice of transhipment enables fishing vessels to continue fishing, which reduces fuel costs for fishing vessels and gets the catch to port more quickly.

That’s why it is illegal in many cases, and it is why the ability to monitor refrigerated cargo vessels and identify when and where transhipment happens can play a significant role in reducing illegal activity at sea.

Their analysis of 21 billion AIS messages from ships on the ocean between 2012 and 2016 identified 90% of the world’s reefer vessels (794 reefers compared to the 882 identified in 2010 according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.)

When they applied a new algorithm we developed to finding telltale transhipment behaviour, such as drifting long enough to receive a transfer of catch, the results revealed 86,490 instances of “potential transshipments.” Drilling down through these 86,490 occurrences, they identified 5,065 confirmed rendezvouses between a reefer and a fishing vessel. They have labelled these “likely transshipments.”

In the new report, they outline our methodology for developing the algorithm and identifying important patterns in the data such as clustering of transshipment activity along the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ’s) of certain countries, and a lower prevalence of transshipment around countries with comparatively good management, such as in North America and Europe, when compared to regions with higher suspected levels of IUU fishing.

The data also show that transhipment is clearly a pan-national problem that involves ships registered to a diverse array of countries operating on the high seas and offshore waters around the world and far from their home ports.

Their preliminary report represents our first steps toward increasing transparency of the previously hidden practice of transhipment at sea. There is more work ahead for them as they continue to mine data for still more data to mine, and more. It is no doubt an interesting field that while of limited enforcement impact, it bring public attention and scrutiny to activities that until now were largely away from anyone’s attention, and that is GOOD news

Download the free report and the supporting data here!

Learn about a companion report released by Oceana.

Read about how our  SkyTruth captured satellite images of a Thai reefer in a likely transhipment in a remote part of the Indian Ocean.

Source: Global Fishing Watch Blog

The tuna transhipment hub of Majuro

Categories News, Op-Eds: Tuna newsbeat insightsPosted on

Republished from Franciso Blaha’s blog, 29 October 2016

by Francisco Blaha


Very little is known about the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), even if they are at the crossroads of many of the developed world consequences… 4 colonial masters in less than 100 years (Spanish, Germans, Japanese and the US), then 2nd WW hotspot, followed by American imperialism, then nuclear tests and fallout, set up as tax heavens, FoCs (flag of convenience organizations), sea levels rising and climate change, airlines duopoly squeezing fortunes of them, just to name a few…

However, its location and magnificent protected lagoon make it a fantastic transshipment hub for the Pacific tuna trade.

Last year they had 704 transshipments involving nearly 450,000 tonnes of tuna, which at the tuna prices on the Bangkok market (that have started to weaken) to$1400/mt are worth 630 million USD, which is ridiculous when you consider that RMI annual budget is 90 millon (U.S. aid and reparations accounted for 60% of it).

So every day millions of dollars worth of tuna are transhipped in the Majuro lagoon, while most Majuro’s inhabitants live in tough conditions and the remoteness of the outer atolls makes mostly accessible only by boat, even if at any time they would be several helicopters on top of the purse seiners transhipping.

From the fisheries compliance perspective, their role is fundamental and is entrusted to the Oceanic Division of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA). I have been their guest for this week.

The key issue is that for biggest part of the purseine tuna, this is the last stop before they leave the region forever, and by the nature of fishing, the verified weights (hence how much fish was actually caught) is only known at the dockside on the processing states, where the fish is weight in for payments and prior to processing. The rest is all estimates.

And as the processing nations for most of the WC Pacific Tuna (Thailand, Philippines and increasingly Ecuador) don’t communicate back the weights per vessels, the transshipment weight estimations are our best opportunity to know how much was caught.

Furthermore, fish does not become illegal at the factories, it is caught and unloaded illegally. And as all these movements occur here, RMI needs to be a responsible port state. Let me use my standard explanation: “A” steals a stereo from “B”, and then it goes to “C” house and sells it… “A” is a criminal and “C” is an accomplice, and “B” is the accuser. Pass this to the IUU fish world, “A” is responsibility from the Flag State, “B” is the Coastal State where the IUU fishing occurs and “C” is the Port State.

And while there is solid argument on question why a country with such a limited resources as RMI, is to take responsibility of controlling the operations of vessels from DWFN that ridiculously subsidize their industry and have an abysmal level of compliance (Taiwan – 400millon US/year, China around 2 billons, including 1 million fuel subsidies per Purse Seiner).Taiwan – 400millon US/year, China around 2 billons, including 1 million fuel subsidies per Purse Seiner).

Well… that is a big topic… one that deserves its own discussion (not today). The reality is that many of the PICs do take the responsibility as fish is one of the few sources of revenue they have, and then the pressure from civil society and the EU that will point fingers and shame them with labels of non-cooperating countries, or pirate ports or whatever.

And, since all vessels come and go from here, is a hub for the Fisheries Observers (in no many places in the world you will see guys with fisheries observer t-shirts in shops, walking the streets and so on). Hence the place is at the forefront of what we try to do regarding tuna fisheries in the Pacific. Not in vain, the PNA Office is based there.

Needleless to say MIMRA has only limited resources available, but very good people! Therefore in many ways RMI is a great place to test run the Unloading Authorization Code model, integrated into FIMS (wrote about this in the past), so I came here to scope the system design… and it has been great.

… Read the rest of the blog post here