From illegal fishing off the Patagonia shelf to drug smuggling in Central America to slave labor and human trafficking in the Indian Ocean, crime at sea is pervasive.

Researchers at Oregon State University are using artificial intelligence and “big data” plan to develop new algorithms (software that calculates patterns) to identify, locate and eventually predict crimes committed in the
world’s oceans.
The perpetrators of these illegal, unreported and unregulated
(IUU) activities collectively use vessels known as “the dark fleet.”
The term describes their criminal activity and the fact that they
try to hide their location by turning off their GPS tracking systems
as they navigate between legally operating and visible boats.
“IUUs include all kinds of terrible things,” says James Watson, a
marine science expert at Oregon State University and a principal
investigator on the project.
When a vessel begins an illegal activity, the legal boats often
begin acting differently. They get out of the area. “Those anomalous
responses can be telling,” says Watson. “We came into this
thinking primarily about illegal fishing, but that turns out to
be just the tip of the iceberg. But it is much, much bigger.” The
problem often begins with illegal fishing, which is widely recognized
by governments around the world, the seafood industry
and many citizens as a major problem, says Jane Lubchenco, an
Oregon State researcher and co-principal investigator on the
project. Lubchenco formerly served as the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration Administrator.
Watson says the data will be made available to nation states and
their coast guards and navies, fishermen, conservation groups,
humanitarian NGOs and shipping companies – “anyone interested
in, or has a vested interest in, the oceans and what happens at sea.

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