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Austral Fisheries CEO slams advocacy group over raising suspicion of disappearing ships

Staff Writer |
Ships are mysteriously vanishing in our oceans and the reason could be more nefarious than we think, says the world’s largest international ocean conservation group.

Oceana has identified four fishing vessels which, rather than vanishing to the bottom of the Deep Blue, have routinely disappeared from public radar tracking systems at particularly suspicious locations.

Among them is an Australian fishing vessel which disengaged its tracking system near a protected Marine Reserve on 10 separate occasions over one year.

Ships use an Automatic Identification System (AIS) which was initially designed as a safety mechanism for vessels to avoid collisions at sea but it also used by organisations like Global Fishing Watch to track and monitor ships at sea.

Despite the associated safety benefits, the crew may turn off the public tracking system to hide its location, or “go dark”.

“A ship’s crew may turn off its AIS broadcast for a variety of legitimate reasons, but this behaviour may indicate that a vessel is hiding its location and identity to conceal illegal activities like fishing in no-take protected areas or entering another country’s waters without authorisation,” said the report by Oceana.

The group wants to increase transparency at sea, stop illegal fishing and ensure traceability of all seafood.

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