Could Human Trafficking On The High Seas Be Stopped By An Online Tracker?

June 27, 2019

A pioneering electronic mapping tool can detect possible human trafficking, forced labour and illegal fishing by commercial ships on the high seas, according to a new report by ocean conservation experts. 

The investigation by Oceana, a US-based conservation advocacy group, uses the Global Fishing Watch mapping platform for the real-time tracking of fishing boats anywhere in the world to flag up suspicious behaviour and help the authorities with law enforcement. 

The online monitoring system uses publicly available data to check questionable activities including port avoidance, extended time at sea, or the muting of a tracking device known as the Automatic Identification System (AIS) which shows the location of the vessel. 

Experts say that irregular patterns in any of this data could indicate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing – which exploits natural resources and threatens food insecurity – or to detect the trafficking and exploitation of workers on board the ships.   

“Increased transparency of commercial fishing can help save the oceans,” said Beth Lowell, deputy vice president at Oceana. 

“Illegal fishers and human traffickers can no longer hide beyond the horizon. Tools like Global Fishing Watch allow Oceana and others to identify suspicious patterns and flag higher risk behaviors for further investigation.”

Oceana carried out a test run of the technology on two vessels that were previously involved in confirmed cases of forced labour and IUU fishing and one ship that was suspected of these illegal activities. 

One South Korean-flagged fishing vessel with a history of law-breaking appeared to repeatedly stop transmitting its AIS. Over an almost five-year period, Oceana detected 73 apparent gaps immediately outside of Argentina’s national waters.

One gap lasted almost 12 days and ended when the Argentine Coast Guard captured the vessel for fishing illegally.

To read the full story by Nicola Smith on The Telegraph (UK): Click Here

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