Hacking for Healthy Oceans
For 36 hours over Father’s Day Weekend, the Aquarium hosted an unusual sleepover. Few of the participants got much rest.
We were one of five sites for a first-ever State Department-sponsored Fishackathon. The goal was to find technological solutions so fishermen in the developing world can make their catch more sustainable.
Teams of coders, designers and project managers created website solutions and apps for smartphones and cell phones - tools that small-scale fishermen can use in places like West Africa and the Philippines to document their catch and report illegal fishing.
Nearly 40 participants gathered on a Friday night in Monterey with laptops, sleeping bags - and novel ideas for creating tools that will be effective in parts of the world where internet access and high-tech equipment is limited. By Sunday morning, they had solutions to offer.
In addition to tackling two State Department problem statements, we also asked our hackers to help with a Seafood Watch challenge: How can information about how fish were caught travel through the supply chain from the boat where it’s landed to the market or restaurant where it’s finally sold?
The outcome? Incredible.
The results were beyond our wildest expectations.
A four-person team we welcomed from the UC-Berkeley School of Information won the top national prize for “Fish DB”, a multi-layered solution to one of the State Department challenges. And a three-person team that formed during the Fishackathon won the Seafood Watch challenge with its “Go Fish!” app: a simple labeling system using colors and numbers to show sustainability and freshness of seafood items. The app incorporates gaming principles, rewards and social sharing features to encourage consumers to buy ocean-friendly seafood.
"I can’t believe what great results these teams produced over the weekend!" said Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, director of Seafood Watch. "We will definitely tap into the talents of hackers in the future."
An appealing location
It might not be too hard to lure them back to Monterey, if comments from the Berkeley team are any indication. They used words like “epic” and “thrilled” to describe sleeping in front of the Kelp Forest and Open Sea, and having access to the knowledge of Aquarium staff and State Department experts.
“We had a blast!” team member Isha Dandavate told the UC-Berkeley news service. “I can’t even express how cool it was. Having the hackathon in an aquarium has sort of ruined us for all other hackathons.”
The State Department was equally thrilled, and is now making plans for a 2015 Fishackathon around World Oceans Day.