// MIDDLE EAST / ISRAEL

Warden of the Seas

Two sailors walk into a bar. The topic of the evening? Transparency on our oceans.

By Ariella Knight and Kaila Harris

While former navy men Ami Daniel and Matan Peled are as likely to have had this conversation over the bow of a ship as over beers, their years on the oceans made crystal clear to them one troubling paradox: that of ocean security.  Knowing who is doing what and where across the seas is critical to overall national and international security, and yet, there is no place with less visibility than our oceans. 

Daniel and Peled witnessed firsthand how this lack of transparency has fostered a criminal paradise on the seas. Criminals and bad actors thrive in this oceanic wild west, trafficking guns, drugs, humans and more. In particular, Daniel and Peled were shaken by the big business of illegal fishing, taking place on an industrial scale. Determined to address the issue of transparency on our seas, Daniel and Peled joined forces to design a system that would shed light on our open waters and eliminate these safe spaces for illegal fishing and other crimes.

And thus, in 2010, Windward was born.

ENRIC SALA/Courtesy of National Geographic Society
Knowing who is doing what and where across the seas is critical to overall national and international security, and yet, there is no place with less visibility than our oceans.

A Window to Your MPA

The goal of Windward was simple: show governments what is happening on their waters. The original Windward team worked tirelessly to make this goal a reality. Gathering, cleaning, harmonizing and aggregating data from various sources – including data sourced from automated information systems (AIS), vessel management systems (VMS), vessel registrations and docking records, shore and satellite-based radar systems and more – to present one final picture of our oceans is exactly as challenging as it sounds. The early days of Windward were spent trying to “overcome the various weaknesses in maritime data,” explained Windward’s Vice President for Marketing and Communications, Michal Chafets. For maritime data was, and largely still is, “vast, unstandardized and open to manipulation,” –  a key reason why others had not successfully tackled this task before. 

Creating a “single, clear place” to hold maritime data – while enormously valuable on its own – was just the first step for Windward. Motivated to stop criminal activity, particularly focused on combatting illegal fishing, the Windward team went the extra mile by using their now-aggregated maritime data picture to create an “Activities” layer. This additional layer analyzes data to determine the activities of a given boat, thus painting an individual story about a vessel. And certain data tell certain stories. Some data indicates illegal fishing while others warn of transshipping, a practice commonly associated with illegal fishing. The ability to see “exactly what a vessel is doing,” Chafets explained, is where the true value of Windward lies.

ENRIC SALA/Courtesy of National Geographic Society
The goal of Windward was simple: show governments what is happening on their waters.

Fishing for Demand

Realizing how valuable their technology was to help governments detect and respond to illegal fishing in their waters, the Windward team sat back and waited for a call. But no one came knocking. Unlike Daniel and Peled, most government officials had not witnessed firsthand the devastation of our oceans at the hands of illegal fishermen and thus there was simply not enough political will to take this issue on.

“Windward started with a focus on illegal fishing many years ago, but the reality was at that point in time no one wanted to solve it, or pay for it,” Chafets recalled. Unable to convince governments to devote their time and energy to combatting the national and global security threat of illegal fishing, Windward found customers fighting other threats on the oceans– drug trafficking, human smuggling, interstate conflict – and bided their time. 

ENRIC SALA/Courtesy of National Geographic Society
Windward started with a focus on illegal fishing many years ago, but the reality was at that point in time no one wanted to solve it, or pay for it

Global Tides Turn

The wait paid off. Thanks to a growing body of evidence on the connections between illegal fishing and security, the international community has started to sit up and take this issue seriously. “Five, six years later, the world has really changed,” remarked Chafets. With the EU issuing penalties to countries with poor illegal fishing records, the US Department of State running the annual Our Ocean conference on ocean health and security and the UN recently passing the Port State Measures Agreement to enhance port security worldwide, this is a very different environment than the one Windward entered in 2010. And today, technology that can protect our oceans and combat illegal fishing is in high demand.

Windward, ready at the sidelines, has since jumped into the center of these efforts. Analyzing 200 million data points a day on over 180,000 vessels, Windward’s data platform grows in scope and sophistication every day. “So complex is the ecosystem” of maritime activity today, “it is insufficient to just look at one type of vessel or in one area of the ocean,” explained Chafets. Therefore, Windward has specialized in creating a “Q&A” style system where different users can tailor their requests to see information uniquely interesting to them. While one user might ask to see all transshipment activity in the Indian Ocean from 2012 to 2016, another may limit their query to all maritime activity in December of 2015 in the Bay of Bengal. “Now that governments are ready to take action to combat illegal fishing,” Chafets posited, “the real question is: how can we actually use the information we have to make a difference?”

ENRIC SALA/Courtesy of National Geographic Society
Thanks to a growing body of evidence on the connections between illegal fishing and security, the international community has started to sit up and take this issue seriously.

Reeling in the Reefers

A look into the global reefers’ micro-industry reveals how Windward can make a difference. Reefers are essentially, “giant refrigerators” at sea, explained Chafets. They collect and transport fish from fishing vessels to port, while allowing the vessels to continue fishing at sea. As such, they have a legitimate place within the fishing industry. However, they are frequently misused and associated with illegal fishing operations by making it easier for illegal fishing vessels to obscure the amount, origin or quota of catch during the ship-to-ship transfer. They also limit the interactions illegal fishing vessels have at ports, which generally involve an identification process and are critical choke points for interdiction. 

With Windward’s analytics, reefer activity, patterns and trends are coming to light for the first time. Windward’s identification and analysis of 5,000 reefer "meetings" to receive fish from other vessels at sea  is the first time this critical piece of the global fishing ecosystem is being discussed and understood. 

ENRIC SALA/Courtesy of National Geographic Society

Winds of Change

Reflecting on the past six years of developing and launching Windward, Chafets notes how illegal fishing “has really gone center stage, with Secure Oceans as a great example of people taking this issue on.” However, for true change to take place, Chafets cautioned, we need perseverance “at the highest, global level.” The huge challenge of knowing what is happening on our oceans is tackled daily at Windward. The next challenge? To ensure our governments and those charged with protecting our seas are using these tools and implementing changes for long-term ocean transparency, security and sustainability. 

ENRIC SALA/Courtesy of National Geographic Society
For true change to take place, we need perseverance at the highest, global level.

Technologies Used

// INTEGRATED SYSTEMS, NETWORKED SYSTEMS AND “BIG DATA”

Windward Maritime Analytics System

Windward’s Maritime Analytics System gathers, organizes and analyzes maritime data from a variety of sources, including automatic information system (AIS) data and other private, public and commercial data, to create a one stop shop for accessible information on maritime activity, including illegal fishing, to its users.

Product Details Integrated Systems, Networked Systems and “Big Data”
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