The future of our oceans? A fishy question for hackers this month

This April The Moore Charitable Foundation channels are focused on conservation issues in and around Panama – namely addressing overfishing, and on upcoming Earth Day (April 22). These issues converge in the following post from Virgin Unite‘s Senior Digital Executive, Nick Steel. Thank you for allowing us to republish this post on

It might seem like an unlikely collaboration, but to mark this year’s Earth Day, computer programmers will be working with fisheries experts and environmentalists to host a global Fishackathon. By bringing together the most unlikely of accomplices, the Fishackathon aims to find innovative ways to collect and analyse data, and find solutions for unsustainable fishing practices.

There is definitive science and clear policy telling us what needs to be done in order to restore and protect marine life. Scientists predict that overfishing will have a catastrophic effect on the ocean by the middle of this century. According to a 2014 UN report, 90 per cent of fish stocks are either fully fished or overfished. And the US coral reef task force estimates that 70 per cent of the world’s reefs – where many fish species live and breed – are threatened or have been destroyed.

Fishackathon team

Photo (c) US State Department

Taking place over the weekend of April 22nd to 24th in over 40 cities worldwide, teams of volunteer coders and technologists will consider problem statements from fisheries experts in an effort to address and alter the future of the ocean.

The main challenges coders will be asked to address will be around fish identification; lost fish gear; internet access to commercial fishing permits and vessel data and compliance with marine applicable fishing laws, regulations, and decrees covering regions.

An expert panel of judges will then evaluate the teams’ presentations and reward the groups that most effectively develop usable solutions to the problem of global overfishing.

The Fishackathon, which is a U.S. Department of State initiative now in its third year, was launched in 2014 around Secretary Kerry’s Our Ocean conference. Virgin is proud to be a partner of this year’s Fishackathon and has donated a $10,000 global award to be presented to the winning team. Kristian Teleki from Ocean Unite* will also be one of the judges deciding the winning entry at this year’s Fishackathon at The Economist in London.

So, how can you get involved? If you have the coding skills and would like to help protect the ocean in a fun, challenging and innovative way, you can still enter into this year’s Fishackathon by registering here. You can also keep updated on the Fishackathon on Twitter by following #codeforfish.

*Ocean Unite, a Virgin Unite initiative, was launched last year to ensure that these key messages about the oceans reach the right people at the moments that matter. Louis Bacon and The Moore Charitable Foundation are proud partners of Ocean Unite.