Belize is the latest country to commit to making the vessel tracking data of Belizean-flagged vessels publicly available through the Global Fishing Watch map, which tracks the movements of commercial fishing vessels in near real-time.
Oceana and Global Fishing Watch Applaud Belize’s Leadership on Fisheries Transparency
Belize City, Belize. The Belize High Seas Fisheries Unit (BHSFU) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to make its vessel tracking data publicly available through the Global Fishing Watch map, which tracks the movements of commercial fishing vessels in near real-time.
The agreement signed by the Belize High Seas Fisheries Unit (BHSFU), Oceana, and Global Fishing Watch, demonstrates Belize’s commitment to greater transparency in fishing activities at sea and is the result of Oceana’s collaboration with the government to increase transparency of Belizean-flagged fishing vessels on the high seas.
“The BHSUF is committed to innovative partnerships that supports monitoring enforcement measures and activities” said Valarie Lanza, Director of High Seas Fisheries of the BHSFU.
Lanza also referred to the collaboration with Oceana, saying “Thanks to this joint effort/partnership we will be able to increase our vessel monitoring transparency efforts to better detect and prevent IUU fishing and explore how the use of additional platforms will contribute to the monitoring work carried out by the BHSFU.”
“This is a demonstration of Belize’s fervent commitment to transparency and good governance,” said Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana Belize. “The use of the Global Fishing Watch technology is cost effective, efficient and enhances vessel monitoring. The expanded data sets generated in near real-time, also improve the quality of informed decision making when it matters most.”
Global Fishing Watch provides an unprecedented view of global fishing activity by using machine learning to interpret data from various vessel tracking sources, including automatic identification system (AIS) and vessel monitoring system (VMS) data. While AIS is required for the largest vessels, the majority of which, catch a disproportionately large number of fish, adding VMS data, which is increasingly required by governments, to the Global Fishing Watch map provides an even clearer picture of fishing activity on our global ocean.
By sharing its fishing vessel data with Global Fishing Watch, Belize’s fishing fleet, comprising more than 40 fishing vessels, will be viewable by anyone accessing the public map, including governments, fishery managers, seafood buyers, researchers, and nonprofit organizations.
“We commend Belize’s decision to share its fishing vessel data on our public map, allowing us an ever clearer view of what’s taking place at sea,” said Tony Long, Chief Executive Officer, Global Fishing Watch.
“By bringing its fishing fleet into the public realm, Belize is paving the way for Caribbean cooperation and setting a global challenge for others to follow suit.”
The European Union’s (EU) Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Regulation (Council Regulation E/C 1005/2008) allows it to act against countries who are not addressing IUU fishing. Belize was issued a warning, a yellow card in 2012 and then a red card in 2013, which resulted in a ban on exports to the EU. Since then, Belize has made decisive improvements in its approach towards the monitoring and regulation of its flagged vessels on the high seas to prevent, deter, and eliminate IUU fishing. The Government of Belize’s resumption of control over the national ships registry, coupled with legislative amendments, specifically the adoption of the revised High Seas Fishing Act of 2013 and its subsidiary regulations, established a significantly enhanced regulatory framework for the management and control of Belize’s high-seas fishing fleet. The Act establishes the Belize High Seas Fisheries Unit with specific responsibility for the regulation and control of high seas fisheries; and confers powers and functions to the BHSFU to conserve, manage and sustainably develop all resources in accordance with the Act. This new agreement will enhance the BHSFU’s vessel monitoring capabilities by providing an added layer of monitoring, control and surveillance to its existing vessel monitoring framework. This step is a testament to Belize’s commitment to transparency and leadership in high seas fisheries management.
In 2017, Indonesia became the first nation to make its proprietary VMS data available via Global Fishing Watch – instantly putting 5,000 smaller commercial fishing vessels that do not use AIS on the map. Peru followed in October 2018 in sharing its VMS data. Panama and Chile have also made their data public, and Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Brazil have committed to sharing their VMS data too.
“Transparency will help to bring back fishery abundance,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Chief Policy Officer at Oceana. “This is critical to preserving ocean-based food security, healthy ecosystems and coastal tourism in Belize and beyond.”
Public sharing of VMS data, including lists of authorized vessels, helps improve surveillance and encourages vessels to comply with regulations. Unauthorized vessels, and those with a history of non-compliance, can be identified more easily and prioritized for inspections, while vessels that turn off tracking devices can be held accountable for their actions.
Global Fishing Watch, in partnership with Oceana and other organizations, is committed to working with countries to publicly share their vessel monitoring data via the Global Fishing Watch map to supplement the publicly available AIS data for the advancement of responsible fisheries management.
“This agreement is a significant step forward for Belize in its effort to strengthen and lead fisheries transparency,” said J. Charles Fox, Executive Director of Oceans 5. “Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing undermines responsible fisheries management, hurts honest fishers, and threatens the well- being of Belizeans who rely on healthy marine resources. This impressive new agreement will combat IUU fishing by vessels flying the Belizean flag and will help drive fisheries transparency in the Caribbean.”
"Belize has become a leading nation in developing sustainable, more transparent fishing practices," said Melissa Wright, Vibrant Oceans Initiative Lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies. "Their commitment to sharing vessel data will help revive fisheries, paying dividends for Belizeans, and sets an example for other countries to follow suit to protect marine resources that billions depend on for food and livelihood."
Both Oceana and Global Fishing Watch are partners with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative, which advances evidence-based conservation practices and implements data-driven policies to protect the ocean and those who depend on it.
Funding for this Belize campaign was provided by Oceans 5.