How Tech is Saving Our Oceans

FishFace, Electronic Monitoring, and Tech for Tuna

Without proper data, fish can't be sustainable managed. But new technologies could change all of that.


We’re super excited to announce that on October 26 our FishFace project was announced joint winner of the popular vote in the 2016 Google Impact Challenge: Australia! This provides us with $750,000 to develop our game-changing mobile technology that will protect global fish stocks, the livelihoods of coastal communities and provide a sustainable food source for billions of people.

Congratulations to our fellow joint winner, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation – it’s a great day for our oceans!

Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world voted for FishFace which got us across the line and we thank everyone for their support and interest in creating sustainable fisheries for people and nature.

declining fish stocks

Fish stocks around the world are declining—with an estimated 90 percent of the world’s fisheries over or fully exploited. In developing countries, like Indonesia, the decline of a fishery can have severe consequences for the environment and for people. Nearly 40 percent of the Indonesian population lives at or below the poverty line, so fishing in this nation of islands is a way of life and provides an important food source for millions of people.

A key challenge in addressing overfishing is the lack of data: we simply don’t know which species are being caught where and in what quantities. Especially in complex multi-species fisheries, like the ones in Indonesia and in many other tropical developing countries, useful fish data just doesn’t exist, making sustainable management almost impossible. In fact, some 90 percent of fisheries globally are lacking in stock assessment data. Traditional methods of obtaining this data are prohibitively expensive, and so in the majority of fisheries in the developing world, the condition of stocks is unknown. 

That’s where The Nature Conservancy comes in, driving innovation that could truly make a difference. 

Facial recognition technology for fish

The Nature Conservancy’s Indonesia Fisheries program is working with two technology companies to develop an automated way to identify fish. Called FishFace, the goal is to build this technology into a smart phone app that could be used on fishing boats throughout the region and eventually be deployed around the globe. Through the use of affordable image recognition software that will detect species from photos, much faster and more accurate sorting of fish will be possible at the processing plant, or even as fish are brought on board boats at sea.

The machine learning engine that powers FishFace is being developed by Refind Technologies. Refind is a Swedish company providing intelligent sorting solutions using machine vision and deep learning. Refind’s aim is to reduce waste through automation, not only in the seas but also in the used electronics industry.

Ultimately, FishFace technology will offer a low-cost assessment of fish stocks, providing the essential data needed to assess and manage fisheries that are struggling around the world and making a positive difference to hundreds of millions of people who depend on fish for income and food. 

Read the factsheet on the innovative FishFace program for more information (PDF)

transforming the last tuna stronghold

The Pacific Ocean is a stunning ecosystem that has proven remarkably resilient, accustomed to chaos. But today, a combination of climate change, pollution and overfishing is putting pressure on the Pacific. Even the most adaptable species are struggling to survive.

Species like tuna. These hearty fish swim fast and far, easily adjusting to a range of ocean temperatures and depths.

Yet 39 percent of the world's tune stocks were classified as overfished in 2014.

The Western and Central Pacific bigeye stock is sparking significant concern. The proportion of bigeye old enough to reproduce has fallen below the acceptable limit set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the regional fishery management authority. If nothing changes, this species may not be able to rebound, further jeopardizing other tuna stocks.

That's where we come in, working on a high-tech reboot has the power to stop unsustainable longline fishing—and preserve the Pacific Ocean for future generations.

Learn more about how Tech for Tuna could save fish for future generations.