“Ocean in trouble? There’s an app for that.”

Have you ever been sitting in your Uber, scrolling through the day’s Snapchat filters while dismissing your GrubHub notifications and thought: “Hmm, I wonder if there are any apps that overcome obstacles to sustainable fishing and fish-farming in the developing world?”

Well, thanks to the third annual Fishackathon, there will soon be a few more in an app store near you.

A delicious mix of fish and chips

From April 22 to 24, nearly 50 ocean-minded binary buffs hungry for codefish joined us for the U.S. State Department’s third Fishackathon. With talents in data science, software coding, design and marine science, each came prepared to execute a marathon of software solutions to vexing fisheries problems. 

When the Aquarium participated in the first Fishackathon in 2014, we were one of five locations across the United States. This year, teams working at the Aquarium were among hundreds of hackathon participants in 40 cities on six continents.

For 42 hours over Earth Day weekend, they were part of an international effort using tools and talents to craft elegant technological solutions to help safeguard the health of marine life—and the billions of people that look to the sea for their next meal.


With the Aquarium all to themselves and a steady supply of snacks, soda and sights, participants spread throughout the building in search of fish-nspiration. Sleeping bags at the ready and plush otters doubling as clutch pillows, teams worked into the night, our living exhibits doubling as energy shots of inspiration. 

As the planet spun ‘round a second time, the morning sun fell over a stunning haul of fisheries apps caught in the coders’ internets. New to the world and ready for appraisal were an app enabling fishermen to steer clear of protected areas that are off limits to fishing, another for tracking abandoned fishing gear that could still be killing ocean life, and even one optimizing collection and management data about fish species being caught and sold in the marketplace.

There’s apparently no limit to the yield of sustainable app development!

Putting “protect” in Marine Protected Areas: Fish Ops

A local team from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) came up with the winning application from the Aquarium’s event: Fish Ops, a method to help the thousands of independent small-boat fishermen in the Philippines identify and avoid protected areas – and a way for the government to pinpoint hotspots where they might need extra resources to enforce no-fishing zones. As a bonus, the Fish Ops smartphone app alerts fishermen to potential storms or other hazardous weather! 

The CSUMB team will now compete for the top international honor, which carries a $10,000 cash prize as well as support from the State Department in bringing their vision to reality. And the competition from the other venues is stiff!

One team came up with a concept for wearable tech that would log RFID tags on lobster traps to help track and recover lost gear. Another designed an elegant user interface for identifying different types of fishing nets, one that uses universally-understandable images, rather than words, to describe many varieties of nets. The winning app with be announced June 5, in celebration of World Ocean Day.

You have one new notification: The future of sustainable seafood is now!

This year’s Fishackathon was a perfect example of what can be accomplished when we focus our skills and technology on a project for the planet. While we all enjoy the apps that assist, entertain and connect, these worldwide events have created apps that will feed, protect and empower, helping us live ocean-healthy lives for generations to come.  

We’re honored to have hosted these masters of Sea-SS—and can’t wait to see some of the fruits of these marine protection apps in action. Cheers to all involved in Fishackathon 2016!