Bringing a new meaning to the phrase “eyes in the skies,” satellites around the globe are helping authorities protect our oceans.

According to a new study, satellites captured hundreds of Chinese vessels reeling in illegal catches in the last few years. 

These are no small hook and line ships either, the estimated worth of the illegal haul is upwards of $440 million dollars. 

Illegal fishing poses a huge environmental and economic problem. 

Many species in the ocean are overfished and face extinction. When fishermen operate illegally it makes it almost impossible for scientists to establish catch limits and protect endangered species. 

About 90% of fish stocks are currently overfished. 

Also, all the fishermen who are operating under the law face the consequences of the illegal fishermen’s actions. 

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These new satellite systems will help level the playing field. 

“Global fisheries have long been dominated by a culture of unnecessary confidentiality and concealment. Achieving a comprehensive view of fishing activity is an important step toward truly sustainable and cooperative fisheries management, and satellite monitoring is a key part of the solution,” says co-author Quentin Hanich.

Policing the world’s oceans is a monumental task. However, the ability to monitor ships from space will give the world’s governments powerful tools in the fight against illegal fishing.