More than 400 leaders from government, academia, and civil society participated in the second Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, Chile to find solutions to address illegal fishing, marine plastic pollution, and ocean acidification. At the conference, on October 5th, President Obama announced NOAA’s commitment by the end of 2017, to support global efforts to combat illegal fishing, including the use of a near-real time data valuable for observing boats using data collected by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument onboard Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellites. VIIRS data are used by local weather service offices to provide improved maritime forecasts. Another emerging application is the use of products developed from VIIRS data that can assist national fisheries management and enforcement agencies monitor local at-sea activities, to assist in the protection of fisheries stocks from illegal and unregulated fishing activities.
With assistance from NOAA scientists, a VIIRS Boat Detection product has been developed that will provide data to help combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The product provides a unique capability to detect vessels that are lit or use lights, including fishing vessels using lights to attract fish, and to detect human activity in marine protected areas. IUU fishing poses a direct threat to food security and socioeconomic stability in many parts of the world, with developing countries most at risk.
In 2016, NOAA plans to develop VIIRS Boat Detection products that can be used by fisheries management authorities in Indonesia, the Philippines and three other countries. Based on the success of these programs, future partnerships are planned.
The VIIRS Boat Detection product is being funded by the JPSS Proving Ground & Risk Reduction program and led by Dr. Chris Elvidge, head of the Earth Observation Group of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. This three year project will continue developing VIIRS capability for detecting nighttime boat lights as well as fund improvements to the VIIRS Boat Detection product’s algorithm to work for full moon conditions and in cloudy conditions. The product will also be expanded to a global, near-real time product available on the web.
By having these data in hand, national fisheries management and enforcement agencies can improve their fisheries management efforts, including taking steps to protect their fisheries resources from illegal activities.
With the cost of IUU fishing in the billions yearly, the VIIRS Boat Detection product has the potential to be an important component to keeping global fish stocks sustainable and protecting law-abiding fishers and seafood industries.
JPSS represents significant technological and scientific advances in environmental monitoring and will help advance weather, climate, environmental and oceanographic forecasting and monitoring with greater accuracy. NOAA is responsible, for funding, managing and operating the JPSS Program, while NASA is responsible, on a reimbursable basis, for developing and building the JPSS instruments, spacecraft, and the majority of the ground segment.