AIS is a tracking technology designed for navigation safety that transmits a ship's location, identity, course and speed.
By using machine-learning algorithms, AIS information allows us to identify vessel's activity at sea.
The number of fishing vessels with AIS is increasing by 10 to 30 percent each year, making this technology more and more informative with time.
"AIS provides detailed tracks of tens of thousands of industrial fishing vessels, and this detailed tracking data has the potential to provide estimates of fishing activity and effort in near real time.
This Atlas assesses this potential and shows that AIS can start to be considered a valid technology for estimating fishing indicators," said FAO, the Global Fishing Watch (GFW), AZTI and the Seychelles Fishing Authority in the foreword of the Atlas issued on the sidelines of FAO's International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability.
Global Fishing Watch (GFW) published in 2018 a first global database of fishing operations based on AIS data.
This dataset tracked the activity of over 60,000 fishing vessels, and was used to understand fishing around the world.
But the use of this new technology for monitoring fishing activity needed verifying and reviewing so fisheries managers and policy makers can fully understand its strengths and limitations.
The 400-page Global Atlas on AIS-based Fishing Activity provides this detailed review, and can prove a useful tool for improving sustainable fisheries management in line with SDG14.
It is the result of a two-year analysis of the GFW data, region by region, drawing on the knowledge of 80 fisheries experts, FAO fisheries data, and other scientific databases.
The atlas also includes two local comprehensive analyses - on all fisheries in the Bay of Biscay and Seychelles' tuna fisheries.
The Atlas finds that in some regions, AIS data can provide a near comprehensive view of fishing activity, this is for example the case in the northern Atlantic for vessels above 15 metres in length, whilst in other regions, this data provides only a small fraction of the fisheries activity, as is the case of the Indian Ocean.
This is partly due to the large proportion of artisanal or small size vessel sizes in many central and southern regions, but also because of lower use of AIS by larger vessels in regions such as Southeast Asia.
The Atlas confirms that the Northwest Pacific (FAO Fishing Area 61) and Northeast Atlantic (Area 27) are the areas with more industrialized fisheries and where AIS technology is more adopted.
The largest discrepancy between AIS-based information and other fishing data occur for fishing activity in the Eastern Indian Ocean (Area 57). ■
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