AIS messages can teach us a lot about maritime traffic. These anti-collision radio-emitted data frames contains actually more than the position of the ship. Name, identification number, speed, destination and many other fields allow an in-depth analysis of various topics. Commercial fishing in France is one of them. By enriching AIS frames with various sources and by compiling the whole on an interactive dashboard, it’s possible to get an interesting view on commercial fishing habits in France.

Disclaimer: Source data is highly incomplete

Data presented here comes form the AISHub project. Marine enthusiasts from all over the world share AIS data caught by their stations. However, AISHub stations network does not cover the entire globe. Moreover, satellite AIS messages are excluded.

This results in various inaccuracies in the figures displayed here. Home ports rankings is only concerning spotted ships, ships last positions are outdated and others. All inaccuracies are addressed over the following descriptions for each KPI.

Spotting commercial fishing ships in France

AIS messages are emitted by every ship with a gross tonnage of 300 or more. Yet, many smaller ships are equipped with AIS systems as security gains are significant. This means in our case that all commercial fishing ships can’t be spotted using AIS messages. Moreover attachment country is not specified in AIS frames like the ship’s type. This make spotting French fishing ships a little harder without an additional list of fishing ships.

Luckily all ships sailing more than 6 nautical miles far from land are required to be equipped a functional high frequency radio. Furthermore, all HF radio stations in France are required to obtain a licence from the Agence Nationale des Fréquences Radio (ANFR) or National Agency of Radio Frequencies. The ANFR publishes the list of every ship in France equipped with a HF radio. This list can be used to enrich raw AIS frames, as the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) identify each ship in each dataset.

KPIs and figures

All KPIs and figures displayed on this article are available on full dashboard. A map, various numbers and interactive charts are updated each hour with fresh data.

Click on this link or the image to access the full dashboard.

Commercial Fishing dashboard panels4 panels are available: Map, Fleet, Activity and Data. A About section is present, listing data sources and linking to this page.

Mapping commercial fishing in France

The map is the first panel of the dashboard. It displays a map of France with surroundings fishing zones, latest known position of spotted fishing ships, and main ports of France.

Commercial fishing: ports, ships and fishing zonesLatest ships positions

A fast ship sails over the coast of Britanny
A fast fishing ship sails over the coast of Britanny

Yellow dots on the map are the latest position provided by AIS messages for each French commercial fishing ship. Ships displayed here are only French fishing ships with an active radio license and spotted by their AIS messages. As stated previously, all French fishing ships are not displayed here. Clicking on a ship opens a pop-up displaying ship name, MMSI, latest speed and AIS frame date. A link to Marine Traffic is available over the ship’s name. On this website, more informations are displayed about ships like photos and sometimes owner name. Zooming the map on a world level may reveal ships in the Pacific and in the gulf of Guinea. Some French ships are also present over the north western coast of Scotland and North Ireland.

Commercial fishing ports

Large red circles are the main Fishing ports in France. Some ships continue to emit AIS frame when stopped. Using the status and speed of the ships transmitted in the frames, it’s possible to only keep the positions of stopped ships not engaged in fishing. These coordinates can be associated with a postal address using the Base Adresse Nationale (BAN) or National Address Database. This process is called reverse geocoding. The French official repository then mainly return addresses of ports in our case. By isolating cities from the most common addresses for each ship, it’s possible to determine its home port. Size of the circles on the map varies according to number of ships spotted in the port. Clicking on the circle reveals the name of the port and the number of ships spotted in.

This method does not provide exact informations about home ports of France. Ships are many to close their AIS emitter while stopped. But it gives an interesting look over unthought commercial fishing ports.

FAO fishing zones

As part of the Fishery Resources Monitoring System (FRMS), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) divided seas into zones. It eases the tracking of activities and marine fishery resources and enable us to visualise French fishing ships positions in larger context. Clicking on a zones displays its name. Only zones where AIS frames have been emitted from are displayed on the map.

Commercial fishing fleet in France

The second panel of the dashboard is about the whole commercial fishing fleet.

Number of active fishing ships

active-fishing-shipsThe number of active fishing ships if the count of all fishing ships with an active radio license in the ANFR data set. At the time of writing this article, the number was 7,603.

Number of fishing ships spotted by AIS messages

ships-spottedThe number of fishing ships spotted by AIS message is the count of all ships with an active radio license and at least one AIS frame emitted. 628 ships have been spotted this way at the time of writing this article. It’s roughly 8,2% of the active radio licenses.

Average ships length in meters

average-lengthThe average length in meters is the average length of the ships spotted by AIS.20 meters is a strong indicator that only the largest ships use AIS systems on board.

Average age of ships radio licenses

radios-ageThe average age of ships radio licenses is the average age of the first radio license assigned to the ship as mentioned in the ANFR dataset. Inactivity periods may have occurred over the life of the ship. 23 years is the sign of a ageing fleet.

Spotted ships by registration districts

spottedregistrationsThis pie chart shows the distribution of registration districts among the spotted ships. Registration districts are territorial agencies administering sea-related affairs in their jurisdictions. Ships from nearly all districts have been spotted, even Kerguelen.

Home ports according to AIS messagesHomeports

As described above, home ports are defined using the most common stopping position for each ship, then by reverse geocoding it. This second pie chart shows the number of ships spotted on each port. As source data is incomplete, the first commercial fishing port of France Boulogne-sur-Mer only appears 10th in the ranking. In contrary Lorient appears first, certainly more covered by the AIS receivers of the marine enthusiasts from AISHub.

Commercial fishing activity

The third panel is about the activity of the French commercial fishing fleet. As speed and draught of ships are included in the AIS frames, it’s possible to extract KPIs from the whole AIS dataset.

Average percentage of use of ships

Average percentage of use of shipsThe average percentage of use of ships is the percentage of time ships emits AIS frame with the status “Engaged in Fishing”. 21% is a pretty low number, but it’s common for commercial fishing ships to fish out of range of the AISHub network.

Fishing zones by AIS messages received

fishingzonesThis pie charts shows the number of received AIS frames per FAO fishing zone. Bay of Biscay is by far the most frequented.

Average speed of the whole fleet by weekday

weekdayspeedThis bar chart shows the average speed in knots of the spotted ships per weekday. As one might expect, the numbers decreases on week-ends. However, this fall is minimal as fishing schedules are mostly determined by weather. Fishing is not a 9-to-5 office job!

Average speed and draught of the whole fleet over time

speeddraughttimeThis line chart shows the average speed and draught of the spotted ships over time. Good  weather can motivate crews to go out at sea, especially after continuous days of storms, thus increasing the average speed observed here.

Commercial fishing fleet data

The commercial fishing fleet data table enable search over the data of spotted ships. It is the extract of the ANFR dataset, keeping only active fishing ships and enriching it with some other variables like the percentage of time spotted fishing.



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