MIDS Capstone Project Fall 2022

Maritime Raiders: Detecting Anomalous Fishing Activity


Protect & enrich vulnerable coastal communities by using data to help detect suspicious fishing vessels and enforce conservation and sustainable fishing practices.


Global monitoring, control, and surveillance measures have struggled to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Fishing vessel operators tamper with their automatic identification system (AIS) and encroach on countries’ fisheries with weak maritime forces.

Why it matters?

Seafood is the most highly traded food commodity in the world, and it is estimated that at least 20% is caught illegally. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) is commonly associated with destructive practices that jeopardize the health and productivity of marine ecosystems. In addition, it contributes to $10-23.5 billion USD in losses to the global economy each year.


Our team built a monitoring system that can highlight suspicious vessels and anomalous activity based on analysis of automatic identification system (AIS) data transmission irregularities. We will build a resource for people to understand IUU and its impact on vulnerable fisheries.

Intended Outcome & Impact

  • Raise global awareness
  • Provide data on suspicious vessels to vulnerable countries
  • Put pressure on perpetrators
  • Enhance the world's ability to defend its fisheries


Global Fishing Watch (AIS) & Protected Planet (Marine Protected Areas)



For the locations of the GAM-identified anomalous gaps, check out our interactive map.

Our Boosted Tree Model predicted anomalous gaps with a 70% accuracy. Distance from home port, marine protected areas, and exclusive economic zones played an important role in predicting suspicious AIS activity.


1. Seek out grants/funding for recent AIS, imagery, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data.
2. Solidify understanding of fisheries with high rates of illegal fishing.
3. Partner with vulnerable countries to help them understand how to protect their coastal communities and maritime resources.

More Information

Last updated:

December 6, 2022