Global Fishing Watch gets USD 60 million to apply AI towards ending IUU

Global Fishing Watch has received a USD 60 million (EUR 53 million) commitment through “The Audacious Project” which it says will help it use AI to map more than one million ocean-going vessels and all fixed infrastructure at sea over the next five years.

The Audacious Project is housed within TED, a nonprofit best known for “TED Talks” devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” Each year the project selects a cohort of projects that represent solutions to critical challenges facing the world.

Global Fishing Watch CEO Tony Long delivered a TED Talk of his own on the organization’s project to map and monitor industrial activity at sea.

“Shockingly, little is known about human activity taking place across more than two-thirds of our planet’s surface,” Long said. “This must change if we’re to restore our ocean’s health.” 

Using the funding, Global Fishing Watch said it plans to use GPS data and millions of gigabytes of satellite imagery with machine learning to create an interactive display that reveals all industrial activity on the ocean – revealing everything from small-scale fishing boats to cargo ships to stationary infrastructure like aquaculture pens.

“Today, anyone can freely access satellite imagery to explore every road and building on land with just a few clicks of a mouse. We want to do the same for the ocean: create a complete, dynamic map of all industrial activity at sea that’s free for anyone to view and use,” David Kroodsma, director of research and innovation with Global Fishing Watch, said. “Our initiative is audacious. It is new, big, and bold. We’re driven by the potential for impact – and that potential is hugely exciting.”

Global Fishing Watch has launched a number of efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and has contributed to efforts like the Joint Analytical Cell and the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness.

The new funding, the organization said in a press release, will “unleash a new wave of open data and transparency” that will help governments manage the ocean. Donors to the fund include Acton Family Giving, Ballmer Group, Becht Foundation, Oak Foundation, Laura and Gary Lauder and Family, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, MacKenzie Scott, Sea Grape Foundation, and Valhalla Foundation – adding to funding from existing partners like Bloomberg Philanthropies and Oceankind.  

“To protect the ocean, we need to see and understand everything that happens at sea. And we need to empower institutions and people to act on that knowledge,” Global Fishing Watch Chief Program Officer Paolo Domondon said. “We’ll enable governments to improve the management of their waters to better protect the marine environment and the people who rely on it – both by using our technology platform and by co-creating tools that meet their own specific needs.”


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