In the context of Blue Growth, there is increasing demand for timely cross-disciplinary data and data management solutions able to support evidence-based decision making. This is a key step towards social, economic and environmental sustainability. Today Blue Growth data needs are only partially met, but there are very promising innovative technologies on the horizon that can help to solve the current issues.

The week of the 11th of July, the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations hosted the Committee of Fisheries (COFI 2016) meeting. The Committee is currently the only global inter-governmental forum where major international fisheries and aquaculture problems and issues are examined and recommendations addressed to governments, regional fishery bodies, NGOs, fishworkers, FAO and international community.

During COFI 2016, on the 13 of July 2016, a side event on innovative IT solutions to support Data needs for Blue Growth took place. This side event presented partnerships and IT strategies of FAO to support informed decision-making for social, economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture.

Marc Taconet (FAO) highlighted the increasing demand for timely and multi-disciplinary data to confront Blue Growth challenges, such as food security in the context of small-scale fisheries, fish stocks status monitoring, or the fight against IUU. He also introduced how new technology is already used in FAO in this context.

Brian Sullivan (Google Earth Outreach) presented the work of the Global Fishing Watch and how the new partnership with FAO can increase information on global fishing effort and support the monitoring of compliance with fishing agreements.

Anton Ellenbroek (FAO) and Donatella Castelli (CNR – ISTI) introduced the collaboration of FAO with the iMarine e-Infrastructure Initiative for Fisheries Management and the Conservation of Marine Living Resources funded by the EU, aiming at providing cost-effective Open Science data services to a wide range of stakeholders. This was illustrated with an example of a regional database in support to stock assessment, and progress made on semi-automated detection of aquaculture farming cages.

José Aguilar Manjarrez (FAO) described how satellite image analysis can assist FAO Member countries to record the location and type of aquaculture facilities to improve the effectiveness of planning and management interventions to increase production, and improve emergency preparedness. He showed many examples of Google Earth, and prototypes using Google Earth Engine and the iMarine e-Infrastructure.

Samuel Varas, CIO Director, and Annamaria Pastore from the FAO Office for Partnerships welcomed the collaboration with Google and other partners to accelerate information provision, and to provide innovative and operational solutions for the achievement of SPs and SDGs.

Finally, Erik Lindquist shared experiences from his work with Google Earth Engine at the FAO Forestry Department, highlighting how crucial this information has become to support projects worldwide. 

Chairman Audun Lem (FAO), concluded the event by stating that he was looking forward to enhancing current practices with innovative technologies and promising partnerships.

Presentations can be downloaded from:

See article on “Aquaculture mapping and monitoring” in page 111 of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016