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Shining a Light on Illegal Fishing

December 15, 2015

NOAA’s Satellites to Aid International Efforts toward Sustainable Fisheries.

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Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a global problem that threatens ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. More than 400 leaders from government, academia, and civil society participated in the second Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, Chile on October 5 to find solutions to address illegal fishing and other environmental issues.

IUU fishing poses not only an environmental threat to fish stocks and their ecosystems, but also a threat to food security and socioeconomic stability in many parts of the world, with developing countries most at risk. At the Our Ocean conference, President Obama announced NOAA’s commitment to support global efforts with a near-real time data source they could use to detect boats that may be engaged in these harmful fishing practices by the end of 2017.

NOAA’s new Boat Detection products detect vessels that are lit or use lights, including fishing vessels using lights to attract fish. As such, the product can detect human activity in marine protected areas. These products use data collected by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on board Joint Polar Satellite System satellites.

In 2016, NOAA plans to develop VIIRS Boat Detection products that can be used by fisheries management authorities in Indonesia, the Philippines and three other countries. Based on the success of these programs, future partnerships will be developed with other countries in the coming years.

This project is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) proving ground program. For further information, please contact Dr. Chris Elvidge, NOAA-NESDIS National Centers for Environmental Information (

VIIRS boat detection data are available at

For more information on JPSS Satellites and the instruments they carry, visit the JPSS website.

(Editors note: Story was updated on 4/20/2016 to include the location of VIIRS boat detection data and and program contact information)