High-tech sleuths who use satellites and computers to track pirate fishing boats halfway around the world are enabling marine police to nab poachers in remote Pacific waters, yet it remains an uphill battle because distances are vast and scofflaws are legion.
In Shepherdstown, West Virginia, last year, Bjorn Bergman orchestrated a police chase across seas 9,000 miles away. An employee of the nonprofit research organization SkyTruth, Bergman used satellite data that enabled him to track and project the course of a Taiwanese ship that had been fishing illegally in Palauan waters, according to a Feb. 17 story at nytimes.com.
Bergman had been tracking the vessel for weeks as it zigzagged through Palau’s marine sanctuary. The poachers tried to flee the island nation’s jurisdiction, but after a 51-hour chase through heavy seas the Palauan police ship Remeliik caught up with them a few miles from Indonesian waters, the newspaper says.
Palau is aggressively pursuing poachers with the help of SkyTruth and advisers from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Australian Navy, but it has just one patrol ship and 18 marine police to chase down 50 to 100 pirate vessels a year in a 193,000-square-mile no-take reserve.