Making up about 20 percent of the world’s catch, illegal fishing costs fishermen a lot of money — up to $23.5 billion a year to be exact. Illegal fishing also does serious damage to fish populations across the globe. But with many countries suffering from not enough resources to properly patrol their coasts, it’s a losing battle in many ways.
That’s where Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen comes in. The billionaire plans to spend $40 million to develop a system that will help countries easily identify and catch unlicensed fishing boats.
The system is called SkyLight and it’s currently being tested in the Pacific Island of Palau and Gabon, Africa. Allen’s main goal is to aid enforcement of fishing regulations in countries with thousands of miles of coastline and lack the means to do so on their own.
Illegal fishing leads to overfishing and overfishing leads to stress and declines in fish populations. Those declines lead to conflict among fishing villages and increase the risk of hunger and joblessness among people that desperately need food and a way to make a living.
Allen is no stranger to the ocean or conservation efforts. He has a love for diving and has backed ocean projects before and he’s even involved in tracking African elephant populations by drone in order to save them.
“The stakes are high and the threat is real,” said Dave Stewart, head of government affairs for Allen’s Vulcan Inc. “Very few countries have access to timely, actionable intelligence and technology to address this issue. We are developing an illegal fishing intelligence network that will bring this to them.”
SkyLight seeks to help reduce fish that are being harvested above sustainable limits, which currently includes about 90 percent of the world’s fishing grounds.
Allen plans for SkyLight to be made available in the first half of 2018. The technology will make use of data from satellite images, shipping records and information collected by dock officials to predict which vessels could be illegally operating.
This information will help countries better focus very limited resources in an effort to fight illegal fishing.
Some countries only have “one enforcement boat that goes out once a month if they have gas money,” according to Stewart.