Empowering Effective IUU Fishing Monitoring: Skylight’s Collaboration with UCSB Graduate Students

How the recent partnership yielded critical insights into the urgency of tackling IUU fishing as well as the development of a new decision-making tool.

A look at UCSB's IUU Fishing Dashboard.

At Skylight, we believe that by working together, we can make a significant impact on complex issues like illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This commitment led to a recent partnership with graduate students from the University of California Bren School (UCSB).  Together, we focused on a project centered around IUU fishing monitoring technologies to improve access to information on detection and deterrence methods for the broader community. The project also explored the potential impact of increased investment in these strategies on fish stocks and explored commonalities in Skylight users.

Some findings of their work that we were really excited about 

The analysis identified 13 promising countries for Skylight adoption. These countries share characteristics with governments already leveraging our tool: Chile, Costa Rica, India, Jamaica, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Mozambique, Palau, Senegal, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, and Tuvalu. Key characteristics of these countries are having large Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), lower GDPs per capita, and high levels of democracy and government accountability. 

The UCSB collaboration yielded critical insights into the urgency of tackling IUU fishing. Their bioeconomic model suggested the extinction of species like the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna within six years in a world without enforcement. Conversely, with strong enforcement, stocks can continue to grow well into the future. Another important insight from the model is that total cumulative harvest increases as enforcement level increases: you actually catch more the more you enforce! This is similar to what our partners in Mexico found for Revillagigedo National Park

Beyond the research, the project resulted in developing the IUU Fishing Dashboard. This tool is a resource for comparing various IUU monitoring and detection methods. By inventing a “granularity index” and matching logic, the IUU Fishing Dashboard recommends strategies for specific IUU fishing monitoring use cases. The tool has already attracted interest from entities in the United States government and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). 

UNEP in particular is excited to partner with the UCSB students on MPAth (Marine Protected Area Tool Hub), an innovative platform built to support the development and implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs). Launching on June 8th, World Oceans Day, MPAth offers a comprehensive online tool hub, featuring decision-support tools, practical knowledge, and guidance tailored to MPA practitioners and stakeholders. By integrating advanced technologies such as a recommendation algorithm and responsive data pathways, MPAth aims to deliver knowledge more quickly and efficiently. Partnership with UCSB on MPAth underscores the importance of collaboration in marine conservation, empowering stakeholders with the resources they need to effectively conserve their seascapes and contribute to global conservation goals, including Sustainable Development Goal 14.5 and the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

USCB team members celebrate the completion of the project. More information about the team members with their contact below.

It was a pleasure to work alongside such talented individuals for the past year. See below for more information about the project and the UCSB team, who will be receiving their Master of Environmental Science and Management in the coming weeks! 

Link to full report here.

Link to code for the IUU Fishing Dashboard: Github


Ashley Cooper | ashleycooper@bren.ucsb.edu| LinkedIn

Sydney Mayes | sydneymayes@bren.ucsb.edu | LinkedIn

Isabella (Bella) Rothenberg isabella@rothenbe rgs.net | LinkedIn

Chloe Swick | chloeswick@ucsb.edu | LinkedIn

Eleanor Thomas | emthomas@ucsb.edu | LinkedIn