New studies have shown that about 1 out of every 5 fish caught around the world is taken illegally. That adds up to over $20 billion dollars every year, stolen. 

That’s a big problem. 

The world’s oceans are so expansive that policing them is near impossible. Scientists have turned to an unlikely ally in the fight against illegal fishing. The albatross.

That’s a big bird. 

Albatrosses are gigantic seabirds with a wingspan reaching over 11 feet, the largest of any living bird. They routinely cruise at speeds over 50 miles an hour, can go several years without touching land, and have been known to circumnavigate the globe. 

And now, they are helping us catch the bad guys. 

Several months ago, French scientists outfitted almost 200 albatrosses with small GPS trackers, equipped with the ability to detect a ship’s radar output. Over a 6 month period, the tross team surveyed over 20 million square miles, detecting over 350 vessels. 

Although the actual policing abilities of seabirds is pretty limited, the data collected gives government agencies the insight necessary to begin tackling the problem. 

This isn’t the first time (or the last) that we’ve used an animal’s help in protecting our oceans. Check out these adorable seals here.