From her desk in a building in downtown Washington, Lacey Malarky monitors fishing vessels that take advantage of the vastness of Earth’s oceans to cheat in the belief that no one is watching.
Malarky uses a website called Global Fishing Watch, which was launched by her employer, the NGO Oceana, with Google and a non-profit called SkyTruth less than three years ago to trace where 70,000 fishing vessels have sailed since 2012.
The site analyses the GPS signals emitted by these ships and plots them on a map to help people such as Malarky to determine if they have gone into a protected region, or are in fact working in an area that corresponds to the species of fish they say they are looking for.
Using artificial intelligence, Global Fishing Watch can even tell what kind of fishing technique a vessel is engaged in: trawling (a net that drags along the seabed); longlining (a line with baited hooks spaced at intervals) or purse seine fishing (using a net that hangs vertically and surrounds a school of fish).
Each method has its own its pace and trajectory and targets specific species.