Australia's national research organization CSIRO has developed a world first notification system that alerts authorities when vessels undertaking illegal fishing arrive in port.
The web-based reporting tool identifies and ranks vessels across the globe based on a list of behaviors associated with illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
CSIRO senior scientist and co-designer of the platform Dr Chris Wilcox said the tool used data collected by satellites to monitor and report suspiciously behaving vessels.
"Almost all vessels are equipped with anti-collision devices that can be detected by satellites," Wilcox said. "Using data from these systems, we can shine a spotlight on vessels acting suspiciously based on factors including the vessel's history, movement and whether its transmitter has been intentionally disabled.
"Countries will be able to sign-up to receive notifications, or directly access the portal to search for vessels and then be provided with a report which highlights the suspicious behaviors involved."
The announcement follows the execution of the first international treaty aimed at eradicating IUU fishing, coordinated by the United National Food and Agriculture Organisation and agreed to by 29 countries.
"As well as costing tens of billions of dollars each year, IUU fishing leads to over-fishing and depletion of stocks which has the greatest impact on developing countries whose people rely on fish as their primary source of protein and income," Wilcox said.
"As global population numbers continue to grow, combatting IUU fishing is becoming even more important to ensure future food security for the world."
The CSIRO team led by Wilcox has also been working closely with the Indonesian government to address the problem.
The project is part of a collaboration with Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen and his U.S.-based company, Vulcan Inc.
The platform will be officially launched in October and is already anticipated by a number of national and international surveillance agencies, including the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation funded Global Fishing Watch.
Illegal fishing is the third most lucrative crime in the world, after weapons trafficking and drug smuggling. It's estimated there are 26 million tons of illegal fish caught each year, worth approximately $23 billion. A third of fish in U.S. and Australian markets appears to be illegal. 120 million people globally depend on fishing for their income.