Many people reduce their meat intake (which is good!) by swapping it with another animal protein source of fish. The problem here lies in how fishing is done around the world and the crimes committed by too many fishers. Indeed, crime on the high seas is alive and well with fishing vessels partaking in swaths of illicit behaviour. This all sounds bad, but the good news comes down to preventing it.
Indeed, researchers have published the results of a large effort to track when, where, and sometimes why fishing vessels turn off their tracking systems known as AIS. This is fantastic because it will help nations enforce the rules of the ocean by stopping illegal maritime activities.
AIS disabling is also strongly correlated with transshipment events – exchanging catch, personnel and supplies between fishing vessels and refrigerated cargo vessels, or “reefers,” at sea. Reefers also have AIS transponders, and researchers can use their data to identify loitering events, when reefers are in one place long enough to receive cargo from a fishing vessel.
It’s not unusual to see fishing vessels disable their AIS transponders near loitering reefers, which suggests that they want to hide these transfers from oversight. While transferring people or cargo can be legal, when it is poorly monitored it can become a means of laundering illegal catch. It has been linked to forced labor and human trafficking.