Avast! Pirate Fishing Vessel Caught in Palau with Illegal Tuna & Shark Fins

SkyTruth’s analysis of satellite-collected vessel location data recently helped land a ship apparently engaged in illegal fishing in the waters of Palau, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean (listen to the story on National Public Radio).

Bjorn’s daily monitoring of AIS data revealed apparent fishing activity throughout December and January by a Taiwan-flagged tuna longliner called the ShinJyi Chyuu 33.  This vessel did not have a permit to fish in Palau’s waters, so authorities in Palau launched a patrol boat to intercept it. Working well past midnight and into the early hours of January 21 (Shepherdstown time!), Bjorn provided updates on the vessel’s position, heading and speed, and predicted where it would be when the patrol boat arrived on the scene more than 200 miles from port.

30-day track of the Shin Jyi Chyuu 33 showing apparent fishing activity in the waters of Palau. AIS data copyright exactEarth. Includes material © 2015 exactEarth Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

We’re told the Shin Jyi Chyuu was intercepted just 10 miles from the border of Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The government of Palau reports that the holds of the Shin Jyi Chyuu were filled with tuna and shark fins.
Not a bad day’s work from the hills of West Virginia.  Will this “solve” the illegal fishing problem? Not by a long shot, but it does provide a real-life demonstration of what you can do using publicly available data and persistent monitoring. And we hope it will encourage the “good guys” — who are fishing by the rules — to voluntarily make themselves trackable.