The illegal "overfishing" of the world's oceans has reached a critical point -- bad enough that Google is willing to step in and try to help.
A new initiative, called Global Fishing Watch, was unveiled Friday in Sydney, Australia. It will use satellite data and cloud-computing to track fishing in real time to try to limit illegal activity.
Global Fishing Watch -- a partnership between Google and environmental groups Oceana and SkyTruth -- has compiled enough data already to highlight fishing activity from 2012 and 2013. The groups said they are now working on a public-facing service that will show fishing in near-real-time and allow authorities to quickly determine where illegal fishing is occurring.
"Global overfishing is destroying ocean ecosystems," according to Global Fishing Watch's website. Fish such as the bluefin tuna have long been a concern for conservationists, but many other species are targeted by those seeking to profit on illegal fishing. The issue is that highly profitable species are being overfished, leaving fewer and fewer fish to keep the species sustainable. Global Fishing Watch hopes to change that.
"So much of what happens out on the high seas is invisible, and that has been a huge barrier to understanding and showing the world what's at stake for the ocean," John Amos, president of SkyTruth, said in a statement. "But now, satellite data is allowing us to make human interaction with the ocean more transparent than ever before."
Google is providing an undisclosed financial commitment to the project, as well as engineering services. The company's mapping software and servers are also being used. The conservationists are analyzing data from satellites to determine whether activities are legal.
It's not clear when the current data showing fishing from recent years will be changed over to real-time information.