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Belize High Seas Fisheries Unit Launches Vessel Tracking Data Program

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. Our newsroom spoke to Oceana’s Vice President, Janelle Chanona about the significance of this.

Janelle Chanona, VP, Oceana Belize: “Certainly Oceana vies the signing of this MOU with the Government of Belize as a decisive demonstration of its fervent commitment towards transparency and good governance and we are certainly doing everything we can to champion and to commend this action because it really shows Belize’s dedication to a package of reforms, to commitment to make sure that it has eyes on the Belize flag vessels on the high seas and therefore we can take advantage of the technology that is available. The Global Fishing Watch uses machine learning and satellite technology to give, at free of cost, give governments that opportunity to use that information in near real time so that governments have the opportunity to make the quality of the informed decision making is enhanced. So we’re very excited  and we are looking forward to the next big steps which is the date going live but it’s certainly a very good day for transparency and good governance.”

She added that the expanded data sets generated in near real-time, also improve the quality of informed decision making when it matters most.
The Unit’s Deputy Director is Robert Robinson, who also told our newsroom that this allows Government to make sound decisions and protect the integrity of our flag on the high seas.

Robert Robinson, Belize High Seas Fisheries Unit (BHSFU)

Robert Robinson, Belize High Seas Fisheries Unit (BHSFU): “It means that Belize will have a new tool that will enhance the monitoring, control and surveillance that it currently has at it’s disposal. Currently we use satellite based vessel monitoring however all the machine learning and the new technology that has been developed by Global Fishing Watch and its partners will be at our disposal and it will enhance our ability to have greater control over our high seas fishing fleet. For the general public they can just be content in the knowledge that Belize is doing everything in its power to ensure that its reputation and its good name remains above par. Belize is really leading the region when it comes to being transparent in fisheries management and our aim over here at the BHSFU is to be a global leader in fisheries management. So taking this step demonstrates our commitment to sustainable and viable fisheries on the high seas so that the fish stocks that we participate in continue to harvest will exist in perpetuity.”

It also means that Belize can play its part in preserving ocean-based food security, healthy ecosystems and coastal tourism.

Robert Robinson, Belize High Seas Fisheries Unit (BHSFU):”Maintaining a historical presence on the high seas puts us at an advantage when it comes to allocation of fishing rights. We can demonstrate our need for greater fishing opportunities and it can definitely be a source of food security in the event that we need to turn to the high seas for fish as a source of animal protein.”

By sharing its fishing vessel data with Global Fishing Watch, Belize’s fishing fleet, comprising more than forty fishing vessels, will be viewable by anyone accessing the public map, including governments, fishery managers, seafood buyers, researchers, and nonprofit organizations.