Blauwe economie onder druk infographic
Graphic shows fishing, transport and energy vessel activity and share of “dark” shipping.


Blauwe economie onder druk

By Duncan Mil

January 11, 2024 - Economic trade related to the oceans and coasts faces threats from overfishing, pollution and burning of fossil fuels. This “blue economy” is valued at up to $2.5 trillion annually.

Three-quarters of the world’s industrial fishing boats and a quarter of transport and energy ships are “dark vessels” that do not publicly share their location.

Using a combination of satellite imagery, vessel GPS data, and artificial intelligence, researchers have uncovered an enormous quantity of previously untracked human activity at sea, according to the paper published in the journal Nature by Global Fishing Watch.

“We had an idea that we were missing a big chunk of the activity happening in the ocean but we didn’t know how much,” says Fernando Paolo at Global Fishing Watch, a non-profit organisation based in Washington DC. “And we found that it’s a lot more than we imagined.”

Paolo and his colleagues scanned two million gigabytes of satellite data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellite constellation between 2017 and 2021.

By comparing this global map of some 62,000 vessels with a database of boats that broadcast their location, the researchers found that most were not keeping their Automatic Identification System active.

The number of “dark fleets” are mainly concentrated in waters around South Asia and Africa. Many vessels that participate in illegal fishing will deliberately sever their AIS connection.

PUBLISHED: 11/01/2024; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images