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Winning the 2016 Fishackathon, Amsterdam - Let's stop illegal fishing

Hackathon | Rapid Prototyping | Web Development

In April 2016, I was a hacker at the Amsterdam Fishackathon. This was an event commissioned by the US Senator John Kerry, and aimed to tackle a wide range of issues related to the fishing industry and illegal fishing. I met my teammate Menno at the event and we won the 2016 Hackathon! I really wanted to share our solution with you, it’s pretty neat… ;)

Problem Statement

There are Marine Protected Areas all around the world, where fishing is forbidden. They are protected as the area has been over-fished or sometimes, there are endangered species in the area. The trouble is, these MPAs span over thousands of square miles of the sea so it’s really difficult to catch illegal fishing boats.

In most MPAs, coast guards patrol the seas in boats or helicopters, trying to catch illegal fishers in the act. You can probably imagine how tedious and inefficient that it. We met mentors from the European Space Agency, who were looking at using Satellite images to help identify illegal boats. The issue is that processing hundreds of satellite images takes a lot of time and processing power. We wanted to tackle this issue.

The two-part solution

  1. A simple, addictive mobile game for everyone – tap as many boats as possible to win points!
  2. A Dashboard that empowers the coastal law enforcement and the public to digest all the information available. Includes heat maps, data tables of information and legal information all in one place.
Tap-a-Boat is a simple mobile game which quickly identifies illegal boats in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as well as gathering critical data about the historical location of vessels. Sentinel-2 Satellite images of MPAs are cut up and set as the background of the game. The user taps as many boats as quickly as possible in a high-paced, addictive setting.

The data captured from this game will allow NGOs and government bodies to rapidly analyse satellite images and help to bring more transparency and knowledge into the marine industry.

To quickly prototype the solution, I used IBM Bluemix, HTML, CSS and Javascript to create the demos. You can read about the technical breakdown in the Devpost Summary here.


The location of the Hackathon was at IJmuiden Fort, an old port fortress with winding stone staircases and dungeon-like rooms. Between coding, it was great to walk to the top of the fort to watch the surrounding sea and ships go by.

As part of the winning team, we were awarded $1000 from WWF to further develop the solution and we were invited back to Amsterdam to attend a dinner at the US consulate of the Netherlands.

And as always, it was so cool to go to a Hackathon and gain insight into an problems and technologies that I didn’t even know existed before the event! I’m really glad I went since I went by myself without knowing what to expect… Turned out to be one of the best Hackathons on 2016 and I met so many enthusiastic and creative people! Winning the competition was just the icing on the cake.