Coding for Fish: Finding Tech Solutions to Sustainable Fishing

Posted by Thomas Debass
June 1, 2015
A school of sardines swim

Half the world’s population -- 3.5 billion people -- depends on the ocean for their primary source of food. This number could double in the next twenty years. Global consumption of seafood has doubled since the 1970s, and with this growing demand comes increasing pressure on our marine resources. This can lead to overfishing, illegal fishing practices, and the potential for irreversible harm to the ocean ecosystems that we rely on.

As Secretary Kerry emphasized during last year’s Our Ocean Conference, sustainable fisheries is a responsibility that falls on all of us, since it affects all of us. So, how can we work together to address this common challenge?

Here at the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, it’s our job to bring organizations and individuals together in partnership to find solutions to challenges like this one. We convene government, multinationals, NGOs, foundations, universities, and more to leverage our respective strengths and maximize our impact; we believe that we can go further together than we can alone.

That belief is the impetus for our second annual Fishackathon. Partnering with Greenwave and with support from /tone, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, we are excited to organize this year’s events from June 5-7, 2015 as one of many events for World Oceans Day.

Fishackathon brings together fisheries experts, aquariums, technologists and coders, designers, technology incubators, and companies focused on sustainable seafood for a weekend event where they use the power of technology to develop applications to solve challenges in sustainable fishing.

Last year, we held Fishackathon events in five cities around the United States. Volunteers built apps for fishers in developing countries to use to register their boats, report illegal fishing, track their catches, and more. This year, we are expanding the scope and bringing Fishackathon to twelve cities across the globe. Volunteer coders will choose problem statements to address in teams, work for 24-48 hours to develop their idea, and then present their solutions for the chance to win prizes like workshops and mentoring or a trip to the second annual Our Ocean conference in Chile in October.

No single approach is going to be able to provide a solution to the world’s biggest challenges. Thanks to events like Fishackathon, we can take advantage of our volunteers’ diverse skill sets to collaborate on solutions to problems that affect them at both locally in their city and globally with our worldwide network of volunteers.

So, will you help us #codeforfish?  For more information or to sign up for a Fishackathon in your city, see

Follow Fishackathon on Twitter at @fishackathon, @GPatState, and #codeforfish. Follow Deputy Special Representative Thomas Debass on Twitter at @debass.

About the Author: Thomas Debass serves as the Deputy Special Representative for Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State.

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