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Master of Environmental Science and Management: Master's Group Project

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing: Empowering Effective and Efficient Interventions

Group Members: Ashley Cooper , Sydney Mayes, Isabella (Bella) Rothenberg, Chloe Swick, Eleanor Thomas

Faculty Advisors: Chris Free

Client: Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (Skylight)



Final Report

Executive Summary

Final Presentation


Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing poses a formidable monitoring and enforcement challenge for regulatory agencies and maritime domain awareness (MDA) practitioners worldwide. IUU practices threaten ocean and marine ecosystem health, amplify resource conflicts that contribute to geopolitical instability, and jeopardize essential food sources for millions of people. This project aims to reduce the threats associated with IUU fishing through three novel contributions to the monitoring and enforcement field: 1) an interactive dashboard to increase awareness of the IUU fishing problem and educate practitioners about different monitoring and enforcement solutions; 2) a bioeconomic model that quantifies how enforcement effort can be scaled to protect and restore fish stocks; and 3) an analysis of the key determinants for whether a nation adopts Skylight, a tool that leverages satellite data and AI to provide actionable MDA intelligence. Our findings highlight how the type of IUU fishing offense, spatial scale, cost constraints, and data needs determine the utility of a given monitoring approach. At the same time, higher levels of enforcement lead to healthier fish stocks and decreased illegal catches. Lastly, our results suggest that a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), exclusive economic zone (EEZ) size, and degree of democratic accountability are key indicators when predicting likely adopters of Skylight. Together, these findings can help support agencies, nonprofits, and other MDA stakeholders tailor their respective strategies to better address IUU fishing, and promote more sustainable resource management globally.


UC Santa Barbara Bren School: Dr. Christopher Costello, Distinguished Professor; Dr. Christopher Free, Assistant Researcher; Nathaniel Grimes, PhD Candidate; Dr. Christopher Jerde, Assistant Researcher; Gavin McDonald, Senior Project Scientist

Allen Institute for AI: Patrick Beukema, Lead Machine Learning Engineer; Chris Emura, Executive Director, Engineering; Joe Ferdinando, Product Manager, Research and Development, Skylight; Namrata Kolla, Lead Product Manager, Skylight; Ted Schmitt, Senior Director of Conservation

Gregg Casad, Owner & Managing Director, Exulans

Justin Manley, President, Just Innovations

Todd Jacobs, Deputy Superintendent for Operations and Administration, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

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