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Net closing on illegal fishers through launch of new insurance tool

Novel tool enables insurance industry to combat global issue of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Hydor AS gives backing with call for more industry players to climb aboard.

September 20th, 2022 – An innovative new tech tool launches today to tackle global illegal fishing through the engagement of the insurance sector. Insurers have committed to test the pilot scheme for the tool which is designed to counter the scourge of illegal fishing. The first fixed premium P&I facilities to join is Norwegian based Hydor AS with other global insurers poised to engage in the initiative.

There is a call for more insurers to join and “close the net” on illegal fishing. Illegal, unregulated and unreported – or IUU - fishing undercuts effective fisheries management, harms ocean ecosystems, and undermines food security. It is also associated with human rights abuses, slave labour and human trafficking.

The initiative has brought together global expertise in insurance, marine ecology and technology under the banner of the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA). It has developed a new tool which harnesses data to enable insurers to quickly discover whether vessels they are considering insuring are at risk of engaging in IUU fishing. Cutting off access to insurance makes it more costly for IUU vessels to operate and disincentivises operators from engaging in this illicit activity. It can also help insurers avoid costly claims and exposure to potential legal and reputational liabilities, making the business case for this initiative clear.

Vessel Viewer, developed in this pilot phase by Global Fishing Watch and TM-Tracking, in partnership with ORRAA, and in collaboration with ocean conservation group, Oceana and a number of global insurers, is a crucial piece of innovation which plays its role in the wider push to crackdown on illegal fishing. It is a knowledge tool and risk-assessment platform for the insurance sector which, by identifying risks and information gaps, will protect them from inadvertently underwriting unscrupulous illegal operators who now will have to shoulder all of their financial risk, making their operations unviable.

With over USD$20billion of fish being stolen from the world’s ocean every year. We are calling today for additional players in the insurance sector to come on board and close the net even further on illegal fishing,” said Karen Sack, Executive Director of the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance.

Vessel Viewer is also being assessed to see how it could support the global seafood industry to have greater oversight of their source vessels, to meet industry commitments, and comply with growing legislation around due diligence and anti-IUU measures. The tool will build on efforts made with port authorities and governments to date. Additional potential uses of the data and features are being explored with both government and private sector partners.

Removing access to insurance is one mechanism that carries significant potential in reducing illegal fishing globally,” said Tony Long, chief executive officer of Global Fishing Watch. “By making data transparent, the vessel viewer tool will allow insurers to crosscheck reported information on a vessel’s identity and activity, pinpoint information gaps and ultimately help them make risk-based decisions about whether or not to insure a vessel.”

Duncan Copeland, Executive Director of TMT, said, “We are very pleased to be working with ORRAA and alongside Global Fishing Watch to provide essential data and technical expertise for the Vessel Viewer risk-assessment tool. TMT’s core focus is in delivering solutions to combat illegal fishing operations and we are excited to roll-out this tool to involve the insurance industry in this effort.

This project is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

It is estimated that IUU fishing costs the global economy over US$20 billion annually, leading to some fish stocks being on the verge of collapse.

IUU fishing has become pervasive by taking advantage of the lack of transparency in the fishing industry, using gaps in regulation and monitoring of the high seas and at ports to operate undetected.

With 12 percent of the world’s population relying on fisheries for their livelihood, IUU fishing threatens the economic security of millions of small-scale fishers and their communities. In addition, IUU fishing is closely associated with labour and human rights abuses.

Vessel Viewer draws on and builds upon the insurance industry’s statement against IUU fishing[1] from five years ago and the 2018 Oceana IUU Fishing Risk Assessment Checklist.[2]

Vessel Viewer is a vessel history and decision support tool that provides current and historic information on a vessel’s identity, activity and potential risk indicators. The new technology and associated data were developed by Global Fishing Watch and TM-Tracking in partnership with ORRAA and in collaboration with ocean conservation group, Oceana and a number of global insurers. The innovative decision support tool will help the insurance sector identify risks or information gaps to avoid inadvertently underwriting unscrupulous illegal operators who now will have to shoulder all of their financial risk, making their operations unviable. The novel technology and collaboration aims to contribute to global efforts to clamp down on IUU fishing.

Vessel Viewer provides the first one-stop-shop for underwriters to immediately access (via an integrated API) data points and analysis including current and historical information on a vessel’s identity, a summary of a vessel’s automatic identification system (AIS) tracking activity including fishing events, port visits, loitering and encounter events. New data on likely disabling events is included – where a vessel appears to have disabled or intentionally turned off its AIS.

Essential for the insurance sector, Vessel Viewer uses this data to compile a summary of risk indicators including a red or yellow flag to indicate the likelihood of the vessel engaging in risky activity, such as fishing events detected in a marine protected area (MPA), or a vessel appearing on an IUU fishing vessel list.


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