Map Technology Gives Voice to Fishermen

In the battle over the care and use of the world’s oceans, one voice is often lost in the debate: that of the fisherman. A technology now exists to address that issue, and it’s just received a national award for innovation, according to a Dec. 8 press release.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Ecotrust $50,000 for Open OceanMap, an open-source, Web-based ocean mapping technology. Open OceanMap addresses the general lack of data -– whether use or habitat data –- that inhibits successful marine area management. The technology engages fishermen by letting them create GIS maps that place value on specific areas of the ocean that are most important to them. The resulting data facilitates more informed conversations between fishermen, policy makers, and others, and better management planning for the benefit of marine environments and communities. It is estimated that Open OceanMap could, for example, cut in half the local economic impacts stemming from the implementation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The technology is now in use on California coasts, it will soon be used in Oregon, and it could be used anywhere.

“Open OceanMap combines the best of GIS-based approaches for facilitating the capture, organization, and dissemination of scientific data on marine life with a totally open set of tools,” said Ira Fuchs, vice president for Research in Information Technology at the Mellon Foundation. “This is just the beginning. The same tool set could be used for orchestrating the collection of other kinds of environment data anywhere -– this is the type of innovation that has the potential to make a real difference for fishermen, public policy planners, and others. Open OceanMap could provide a powerful platform for enhancing pro-amateur science; for example, by offering a way to get high school students more engaged in environmental studies.”

Additional information about the Mellon Awards is available at

Ecotrust advocates better approaches to living, ones that incorporate social, economic, and environmental well-being. Over nearly 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $60 million in grants into more than $300 million in capital for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California. Ecotrust iintegrates public and private purpose and for-profit and non-profit structures.