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New research partnership to investigate illegal fishing in the North Pacific Ocean

Collaboration will investigate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and support a sustainable future for the Pacific region’s fisheries

The Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) has entered into a formal collaboration with the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency (FRA) and the global non-profit organisation, Global Fishing Watch, to investigate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and strengthen transparency and governance of fisheries within the region.

Through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), initiated on 3 September 2018, the partners intend to share relevant open public data and analytical methodologies, including vessel movement data, catch data and satellite imagery; collaborate on relevant research activities, and publish research outcomes to advance international understanding on IUU fishing and its impacts.

“Fisheries are a critically important global resource for food security, livelihoods, employment and development,” ANCORS Fisheries Governance Program head Associate Professor Quentin Hanich said.

“This collaboration will bring together technology, research and policy expertise to ultimately strengthen fisheries governance, build transparency and support a sustainable future for the Pacific region’s fisheries.”

Through the three-year collaboration, the partners intend to generate a much clearer picture of fishing activity in the Pacific, including the pattern of transshipment activity, and for the findings to be used to inform decision-making with the regional fisheries management organisations.

“The impact of IUU fishing on resources is significant. We must assess it through this partnership.” FRA President Masanori Miyahara said.

The partners also intend to analyse night time satellite imagery that picks up the location and activity of brightly lit vessels operating at night in the Pacific Ocean. Squid jigging, for example, most often takes place at night with bright overhead lights to attract the squid. They will also study transshipment operations in the purse seine and 'night light' fishing fleets in the Pacific.

Fishing boats and refrigerated cargo vessels meet at sea in order to transfer seafood, crew, fuel or supplies. Known as transshipment, the practice enables fishing boats to remain at sea fishing for months to years at a time while still getting their catch to market.

“This is a significant partnership, initiated by the FRA. By sharing skill-sets, using cutting edge technology and open data, we can better understand what is happening in waters important to Japan and to more sustainable fisheries in the region.” Global Fishing Watch’s CEO Tony Long said.