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GLORES Partner Spotlight: SkyTruth

We are thrilled to shine this week’s Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) Partner Spotlight on SkyTruth!

SkyTruth uses the view from space to motivate people to protect the environment. They utilize technology to identify and monitor threats to the planet’s natural resources such as offshore drilling and oil spills, urban sprawl, fracking, mountaintop removal mining, and overfishing of the oceans.

SkyTruth believes that better transparency leads to better management and better outcomes. By sharing their findings – stunning imagery and robust science-based data – with the public for free, SkyTruth moves policy makers, governments and corporations towards more responsible behavior in the environment. Skytruth arms citizen activists with the tools they need to be more effective advocates. They also provide researchers and scientists with critical data that can inform groundbreaking work – and, notably, aid in the effort to begin asking a new set of questions.


Two likely offshore oil slicks detected in the Persian Gulf approximately 100km offshore from the UAE. Image: SkyTruth


In 2014, SkyTruth launched an ambitious project called Global Fishing Watch, which uses satellite tracking to detect when and where commercial fishing is happening in every ocean around the world, in near real time. Their goal is to help save the oceans from overfishing, and they aim to accomplish this visionary goal through the cutting-edge application of machine learning and big data tools, with media and outreach impact created by their project partner Oceana and technology depth provided by Google. SkyTruth believes that better data and radical transparency applied to global commercial fishing fleets will drive better policy and more effective management, protecting the world’s wild-caught fisheries from long-term collapse and environmental destruction. In 2017 Global Fishing Watch (GFW) became its own independent nonprofit, with the founding partners remaining actively involved. SkyTruth continues to partner with the GFW team on a variety of ocean monitoring projects.

Detected fishing events in and around the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in the Republic of Kiribati. The image on the left shows fishing activity before designation as a protected area. The image on the right shows fishing activity following the designation of PIPA. Toggle the slider to see PIPA’s impact.


We asked SkyTruth why they became a GLORES Partner: 

“We became a GLORES partner because we understand that marine protected areas are still at risk from commercial fishing. Fishing regulations are difficult to enforce, even within marine protected areas, and combining forces with GLORES has allowed us to better identify and track commercial fishing activities.”


The refrigerated cargo vessel (reefer) Leelawadee with two unidentified likely fishing vessels tied alongside. Captured by DigitalGlobe on November 30, 2016. (DigitalGlobe)


“We’re especially worried about commercial fishing vessels – and their activities – that we’re not able to track. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for vessels to turn off safety location broadcasts while fishing or to rendezvous with other vessels, and this untracked activity allows illegally caught fish to wind up in legitimate supply chains. It’s still unclear how much of this “dark fleet” activity is taking place, and what it might actually mean for fisheries management. That’s why we’re using satellite imagery to track vessels: to identify the ones that aren’t broadcasting, and then alert local enforcement to the locations where illegal fishing is potentially happening.

Please visit our website to learn more about SkyTruth and our work, sign up for Alerts in your area, subscribe to our newsletter, and support our mission!”