Global Fishing Watch Provides Training to Peru’s Vessel Surveillance Group

[Originally posted on the Global Fishing Watch blog, Aug. 15, 2018.]

We were very pleased to complete a three day training session this month in Lima with the Peruvian Ministry of Production’s vessel surveillance division. It was an opportunity for us to share the latest developments on the Global Fishing Watch mapping platform and to get expert feedback from professionals in Peru’s fisheries sector.

Since Peru’s public commitment in 2017 to show fishing activity from their Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) tracking data on our map we have engaged with local researchers and regulators to review and improve our data and analysis in the region. This began with a workshop with Peru’s Instituto del Mar de Peru (IMARPE) last December and now continues with Peruvian regulators directly responsible for daily monitoring of one of the world’s largest fisheries (Peruvian anchoveta).

In our most recent training session we highlighted the benefits of being able to view and compare multiple data sources on the Global Fishing Watch map including the new night lights and encounters layers launched in June this year. Many large fishing vessels on the Peruvian coast are covered both by AIS and the Peruvian VMS system. In training, we compared the tracking data from both systems for the same vessel showing how one system may cover a gap in the other.

The new night lights layer also has the potential to be very useful to regulators in combination with tracking data. A fleet of hundreds of Chinese vessels fishing for squid is expected to soon return to the Peruvian EEZ boundary. Individual fishing locations can be seen precisely due to the powerful lights they use to attract squid to the surface. However, to identify the fishing vessels, the night light information has to be combined with tracking and identity information from AIS. In training we identified a number of vessels in the Chinese squid fleet and followed their AIS tracks into port in Peru or to rendezvous with reefers (refrigerated cargo ships) where their catch is likely being transshipped.

As we work to develop new tools and data sources for the Global Fishing Watch map it’s valuable to get the insights of fisheries regulators on how they would like to be able to apply our map. So it was great to be able to wrap up the training with a discussion on features that it would be useful to enable in the future. These included being able to select an area on the map with the mouse and display a list of vessels inside and downloading reports of past activity for individual vessels as they come into port.

A special thanks to José Luis Herrera and Nilton Yarmas for coordinating the training. We also benefited greatly from the assistance of Eloy Aroni Sulca of Oceana’s Lima office who demonstrated many interesting potential applications of Global Fishing Watch in Peru. We look forward to hearing more in the future from participants in our training course and collaborating with them for successful monitoring and management of Peru’s ocean resources.

Welcome Amy McCormick

Amy McCormick

Amy McCormick

We are thrilled to announce that Amy McCormick has joined the SkyTruth team as our new Development Director. Amy brings with her a wealth of fundraising experience and grant writing savvy, as well as boundless enthusiasm and a passion for environmental protection.

Amy’s most recent career chapter has been spent in Portland, Oregon, working for the Columbia Land Trust managing foundation relations and the Trust’s annual campaign. Before that, she spent 8 years securing funds for Appalachian Trail Conservancy, based out of their headquarters down the road from SkyTruth in Harpers Ferry, WV. Captivated by the Pacific Northwest, Amy will remain in Portland and work remotely for SkyTruth as a new and integral part of our distributed, international team. Having lived in Shepherdstown for many years, Amy looks forward to work trips back to our tiny town to visit with her friends and family here and in other parts of her native West Virginia.

In addition to overseeing all aspects of our foundation and individual donor relations, Amy will steer our strategic communications, growing our audience and base of support. She holds a Masters in Corporate and Organizational Communications from West Virginia University. When she’s not working, Amy can be found hiking or camping in the East Cascade Mountains or eating and biking her way through Portland’s amazing food scene.

All of us at SkyTruth hope you will join us in giving Amy a hearty welcome as she helps create a strong and vibrant future for our organization.

What I’ve been working on lately: GDPR Compliance

My name is Johnna Armstrong. Like a lot of us at SkyTruth, I wear a couple of different hats, but mostly I’m a Sys. Admin, and I also do some project management, keep the website and our in-house tools running, and (try to) keep up with the latest security hacks and phishing exploits.

For the last couple of months, however, I’ve been pretty busy with the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This European regulation is nicknamed “privacy by default,” and it requires all companies and organizations that provide goods and services (free or not) to European citizens to respect and protect their personal data, even companies and organizations that aren’t in the EU. We have subscribers, supporters and volunteers in Europe, so the GDPR applies to us. It’s not clear yet how the EU will enforce the GDPR, but because it is so far-reaching, and because it would be prohibitively expensive to maintain multiple systems for the various countries and their laws, a lot of companies and nonprofits, including SkyTruth, are opting to treat everyone as if they were a European citizen, and that’s good for data protection here in the U.S.

The GDPR passed in April of 2016, bringing together all the existing laws of European countries into one set of rules in less than five years, which seems like a remarkable achievement to me. Imagine how long it might take all 50 states here to create the same kind of uniform law. The GDPR became enforceable as of May 25, which is why your inboxes have been full of emails notifying you about privacy policy changes and asking you to opt into email subscriptions that you signed up for once already. We’re sorry that all of these emails are clogging up your inboxes, but we’re not sorry that the GDPR is spurring organizations to treat personal data with more respect.

In fact, we think that the intent of the GDPR is terrific. It hasn’t been a lot of fun wading through the GDPR’s 99 articles, performing audits of our websites and apps, and taking care of paperwork and learning the new tools that our third party partners have implemented on their end to make sure that they’re in compliance. The requirements have been costly and labor-intensive to implement, particularly for small organizations like us. And we know that they have been a huge hassle for you too. But at its core, the GDPR is all is all about transparency in the handling of your personal data and the protection of it, which aligns pretty well with our philosophy of transparency in the handling of the environment and the protection of it.

At SkyTruth, it’s always been our policy to treat your personal information with respect, but now we have a privacy policy specifically spelling it out, in plain English. It tells you what kinds of information you give us when you do things like sign up to volunteer for a crowd-sourced project or to receive SkyTruth Alerts for places you care about. It tells you what we do with that information, how you can control and manage your data, and it outlines the third party companies we partner with to do our work, and includes links to their privacy policies. We had already made our website more secure by adding SSL/HTTPS so that data you give us is encrypted and transmitted securely. And because we use Google Analytics to track web traffic in the aggregate, and we now have a notification on our website letting you know know that our sites use cookies and that you have control of that in the settings of your web browser.

Like all those other organizations that have been sending you email, we have been asking you to re-confirm your subscriptions to our blog and news releases. The GDPR requires us to get your consent, and it says that consent expires, although it does not specifically state when that happens. So you are likely to see more of these consent emails from the organizations you interact with in the future. We hope that you’ll stick with us as we make these changes, which we believe are in all of our best interests. If you want to continue to receive emails when we publish blog posts but didn’t confirm your subscription with us, here’s a link to our form. If you are a journalist and would like us to send you news releases, that form is here.

And for those who suffer from insomnia, the GDPR has been turned into a bedtime story for adults.

Watch CNBC’s Oceans of Crime, featuring Bjorn Bergman

In case you missed it, you can catch the CNBC documentary Oceans of Crime, about human trafficking and other illegal practices that go into providing the world’s seafood here. SkyTruth ocean analyst Bjorn Bergman is featured in the final 20 minutes of this riveting investigative piece. (If you are having trouble viewing the entire episode, there’s a shorter clip of Bjorn and SkyTruth here.)

Read more about Bjorn’s work that lead to this investigation in these blog posts:

Unusual Vessel Behavior in the MH370 Search Area

Update on Fishing Fleet at MH370 Search Site

[Updated] Fishing Fleet at MH370 Search Site May Have Moved North

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks on as Paul Woods, SkyTruth CTO, demonstrates the Global Fishing Watch interface. Credit: Franz Mahr, Oceana

Read our Annual Report for an Overview of Our Environmental Impact

Together with partners from around the world, SkyTruth uses the view from space to motivate people to protect the environment. SkyTruth is committed to transparency in all things. In the spirit of that, we wanted to share our annual report with you which covers the impact we’ve been able to have as a watchdog, innovator, and motivator for environmental good.

PA FrackFinder Screenshot

Pennsylvania FrackFinder Data Update

We’re excited to announce the 2015 update to our Pennsylvania FrackFinder data set! Using the USDA’s most recent high-resolution aerial imagery for Pennsylvania, we’ve updated our maps of the state’s drilling sites and wastewater impoundments. Our revised maps show Pennsylvania’s drilling sites and wastewater impoundments as of Fall 2015.

Our previous Pennsylvania FrackFinder project identified the location of active well pads in imagery from 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2013. We are pleased to add the 2015 update to this already rich data set.

The goal of our FrackFinder projects has always been to fill the gaps in publicly available information related to where fracking operations in the Marcellus and Utica Shale were taking place. Regrettably, there are often discrepancies between what’s on paper and what’s on the landscape. Permits for individual oil and gas wells are relatively accessible, but the permits are just approvals to drill: they don’t say if a site is active, when drilling and fracking began or ended, or if development of the drill site ever happened at all.

We compared permit locations against high-resolution aerial imagery from the USDA’s 2015 National Agricultural Inventory Program (NAIP) to determine whether drilling permits issued since the close of our last Pennsylvania FrackFinder project in 2013 were active. There were more than 4,500 drilling permits issued in Pennsylvania during our study period (May 1, 2012,  to September 30, 2015), many of them located quite close together. Ultimately, we ended up with roughly 2,000 unique ‘clusters’ of drilling permits to investigate and map.

We look forward to seeing how the public will use these revised data sets. We hope researchers, NGOs and community advocates can use these unique data sets to gain a better understanding of the impact of fracking on Pennsylvania’s environment and public health.

Harvey Spill Tracker

New Citizen Pollution Reporting Tool, Now Available for Hurricanes

We’ve launched the SkyTruth Spill Tracker, a map-based tool to allow citizens on the ground in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean to quickly report oil and hazardous waste spills and other pollution incidents as a result of the storms.  

You can access the Tracker via mobile or desktop browsers at SkyTruthSpillTracker.org, or via the Ushahidi mobile app

Pollution Spill Tracker

Submit your report at SkyTruthSpillTracker.org

We operated a similar tool, the Gulf Oil Spill Tracker, during and after the BP oil spill in the Gulf in 2010.  We also helped the Louisiana Bucket Brigade launch their iWitness Pollution Map. If you’re reporting pollution in Louisiana, you might prefer to use the iWitness map.

How to Submit a Report

Click the + symbol in the upper left corner of the map to report oil, chemical or hazardous waste spills. Follow the prompts to enter a brief description of what you see. If you are able, please upload a photo or video showing the incident and hit submit.

A technology-driven non-profit with a mission to protect the environment by making more of it visible, SkyTruth launched this reporting tool to enable citizens to report environmental pollution as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Read more about related work after the BP oil spill, the Taylor Energy oil spill, and Hurricane Katrina.

We believe if people can easily communicate their needs, organizations and governments can more effectively respond. Federal and state authorities will be able to download the reports in a standard *.csv format, readable by any spreadsheet or database software.

Contact Us

With your help, the SkyTruthSpillTracker should prove to be a useful resource for aiding the response and recovery efforts throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. We encourage everyone impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to use the tracker. We are also interested in coordinating with other groups organizing similar pollution reporting efforts on the ground. Please email suggestions to us at info@skytruth.org.