What makes a boat smart, and why does it matter?

Our Smart Boat Initiative is exploring new technologies to revolutionize sustainable fishing in the digital age

Artificial intelligence and camera technologies help monitor this boat's fishing activity in real time.

We’re running out of time to solve the crisis of overfishing. Do nothing, and 80 percent of all fisheries will be in trouble by 2030.

There could be severe repercussions for the 3 billion people worldwide who rely on seafood as a major source of protein.

But there’s a promising solution: A new era of technological innovation holds vast promise for progress.

Pioneering technologies and new platforms that can turn fishing vessels into "smart boats" can redefine fishing and how we manage fisheries — leading to greater efficiency, profitability and sustainability.

Testing the big potential of smart boats

Through our Smart Boat Initiative, we're working with our partners to test sensor, network, data analysis and other technologies to open new frontiers for fishing fleets of all sizes:

  • Oregon fisherman

    Large scale: Pacific Northwest

    Watch how next-generation systems on large vessels can reduce the costs of monitoring what boats catch, a key part of managing fishing sustainably.

  • Mexico farmer

    Small scale: Gulf of California, Mexico

    Watch how solar-powered devices on small fishing boats and a smartphone app work together to track legal fishing and help create trust in the system.

Success for these pilot projects depends not only on the technology, but on science-based catch limits, good governance and incentives for fishermen to comply — the hallmarks of well-managed fisheries.

These efforts are already showing how fishermen can harness data and effective management to make fishing more sustainable, traceable and profitable.

3 areas of innovation to watch

Although the digital revolution is transforming nearly every sector of society, it has largely left the fishing industry in the dark.

Even in some of the world’s most advanced fisheries, data collected onboard — usually with just pen and paper — takes weeks or months to become available.

These innovations are helping streamline the process:

  1. Sensor technology — Low-cost sensors can shed light on ocean conditions. Fishermen can work more efficiently, targeting the kinds of fish they want; reducing the impact on habitat; and avoiding food safety hazards, such as oil spills.
  2. Artificial intelligence — Computers able to learn and analyze data could make it more cost-effective to monitor fishing vessels by automating the process.
  3. Networks — Rapid advances in global broadband coverage now let fishing vessels share and receive data while at sea, guiding management and business decisions.

With these advances, fleets of smart boats could improve science and fishery management and businesses operations globally, leading to healthier fish populations and more prosperous fishing communities.

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