NOAA Fisheries, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is leveraging technology to more easily combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, with the aim of protecting ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries.

In partnership with Google, NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) is finding new ways to identify IUU fishing activity and quickly translate that information into actionable tools.

At the Google Government Summit in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15, Elton Edinborough, IT project manager at NOAA Fisheries, explained that the project – which was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic – began as a way to more easily track IUU fishing.

“It was really something that we were trying to solve on how to more efficiently fish and catch illegal fishing,” Edinborough said. “We enforce that now in our agency, we were trying to just look for technologies that would make it better and [see] what’s out there.”

“So, it started with a business problem and it was also a passion project for us in that we want to be more efficient in how we enforce it and become more predictive rather than reactive,” he added.

Google was able to leverage data to help with the technical side of this project. OLE staff can now use various data streams and leverage predictive analytic algorithms to more easily identify IUU fishing.

Abenaa Addei, account director at Google, explained that Google’s tech tools were the right fit for NOAA Fisheries and that the project was a “collaborative” effort between the two organizations.

“There was an emphasis from Congress around illegal fishing, unregulated fishing, overfishing, in terms of our resources, which really lends itself to some areas in which Google also focused and had folks take advantage of our Google technology platforms to help in those areas,” Addei said.

“It was an opportunity for us where, we had some synergies around both our technology being used for those different use cases, and then also an opportunity to work through some of the policy, and being able to be more efficient around this area of unregulated and illegal fishing,” she continued.

Addei explained that NOAA Fisheries also has the goal of digitizing enforcement, and Google was able to look at that problem from “a data perspective,” so that investigators could “gain some efficiencies.”

“They can be predictive of bad behavior and be able to cultivate and sustain our fishing resources more efficiently,” she said.

“We’ve probably just kind of scratched the surface on the data, and one thing that NOAA has – and particularly fishing has – is a ton of data. So, we look forward… to not only help with the data sharing but enrich the investigations, enrich the other things with adding more data to the platform,” Addei said. “And we continue to work with fisheries to take advantage of the technology to help the mission.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.