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Google and conservationists are tracking boats to stop illegal fishing

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Overfishing has been a problem for ages, but oceans are big and it's not as if the water police authorities can track where every boat drops its nets. At least, until now, since thanks to Google, SkyTruth and Oceana, we're now close to being able to pinpoint where every boat is in every ocean. Culling data from AIS - the automatic identification system that boats are required to broadcast so that they don't get lost - the trio can overlay that imagery with satellite maps to show if any boat is operating in a prohibited zone. Currently, GlobalFishingWatch can only show you data from 2012-2013 for boats that are either registered as fishing vessels or displaying "fishing like" activity, but the plan is to build out the system so that it works in near-to real time. Of course, there are still holes in the system, since any vessel can disable their AIS -- although that's almost enough of a reason to haul 'em in to be interrogated by the cops. Maybe this will be the inspiration for a whole new series called Law and Order: Environmental Crimes Unit.

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