Norwegian satellites may help developing countries in the fight against illegal fishing

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A newly launched UN-report claims that over 1/3 of the worlds fish stocks are suffering from overfishing. Norway will now do more to cooperate with developing countries to solve the problem of illegal fishing.

- Illegal fishing contributes to overfishing. And has large consequences for vulnerable coastal communities which are dependent on fish for food. We have the tools that can contribute to a solution of a large problem which we all benefit from solving, says, Minister of Fisheries- and Ocean policy Bjørnar Skjæran.

Norway has developed a unique tool for satellite tracking and inter-agency cooperation to uncover illegal fishing and other forms of fisheries crime. Through five state owned Norwegian micro-satellites there is collected 5,7 million per day, and 2,1 billion per year AIS-data tracks from all over the world. Developing countries and particularly small island states often lack tools to monitor their own waters.

Assistance from the Coastal Administration

Norway already cooperate with other coastal states to detect illegal fishing through the Blue Justice initiative. The Norwegian Coastal Administration has been asked by the Ministry to clarify if it is possible to share these data with other countries within the Blue Justice framework, and if so, facilitate for it.

To protect own waters

- Norwegian data from satellites can make a big difference for countries which do not have access to such data. With better access to AIS-data countries will in greater extent be able to monitor their own waters and vulnerable areas, says Skjæran

Fisheries crime is a lucrative industry which does not only include illegal fishing, but also other forms of transnational organized crime such as economic crime, tax- and customs fraud, trade in endangered marine species and human trafficking.

A serious threat to future generations

-It is absolutely essential that all countries can take advantage of the marine resources in a sustainable way. Without good fisheries management we risk to destroy the economic basis for future generations, says Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim.

- Food from the ocean is an important part of the global fight against poverty. A mix of conflicts, climate crisis, COVID-19 pandemic and record high food prices have led to a doubling of hunger during the last two years. If we share our technology and long experience with managing the marine resources in a way that is good for the future, then this will benefit a number of developing countries, she says.

48 member states

Norway has for many years worked for a worldwide recognition that there is transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry. In 2018 nine countries adopted a Minister Declaration on this issue and today it has the support of 48 large ocean nations. The Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy and the Minister for International Development works towards an even broader outreach by inviting developing countries to support the declaration and the initiative.


Norway launched the “Blue Justice initiative” in 2019 as a support to the Minister declaration on transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry. The initiative will assist countries to work against fisheries crime. Some of the countries benefitting from the initiative is Sri Lanka, Maldives, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica and the wider CARICOM-region in the Caribbean.

The initiative has several projects and the cooperation on vessel tracking is with the assistance of the International Blue Justice Tracking Centre which was established in the Norwegian town of Vardø in 2021. State-to-state cooperation is facilitated through a secure digital platform (Blue Justice Community) which is developed by Norway and administrated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

AIS is short for automatic identification system. It was first established as a anti-collision system for ships. Vessels with AIS-transponders sends dynamic information about own identity, speed and course to nearby ships via the VHF-band and receives similar information from nearby ships.

The Blue Justice initiative has also cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and crime (UNODC). In 2021 Sri Lanka customs, in cooperation with UNODC, uncovered illegal trade in 300kg dried shark fins and 250 kg dried manta ray gills.