Although it is not directly related to Google Earth, Global Fishing Watch does use geographic ‘big data’, so we thought it would be worth covering. Global Fishing Watch is a partnership between Google, Oceana and SkyTruth, which aims to track the world’s fishing fleets and monitor where they fish. This will help to identify illegal fishing as well as assist in the management of fisheries. Read more about it on Google’s Lat Long blog.
To use it, start here. It requires you to sign up to use it, but the signup process is fast and free. We believe the signup is required because of the sensitivity of the data and they require you to acknowledge that you realise the data may be inaccurate, among other things. Learn what you can do and how to use it from the tutorial here.
They do not provide an API nor any way to export data to Google Earth. The data can be accessed by their research partners via Google Earth Engine. They state, however, that the underlying ship tracking data is a commercial data-set, so they cannot distribute it freely. We really wish that shipping data and aircraft data could be made available freely, but Global Fishing Watch states that it downloads 20 million data points per day, so whoever is managing the data collection must have significant costs. There are sites such as MarineTraffic for ships and FlightRadar24 for aircraft that let you see real-time data for a significant proportion of the world’s shipping and aircraft, but if you want any historical data it has to be paid for. We have long wanted to get hold of some historical tracks so we can write algorithms to find ships and aircraft in historical imagery, but we have not managed to find any source that provides such tracks free of charge.
We came across this interesting track that follows lines of longitude (every four degrees). And then another ship takes over and continues the pattern further west. Was it doing some research as well as fishing?
About Timothy Whitehead
Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.