Civic

Jun. 12, 2014 2:22 pm

With ‘Fishackathon,’ US State Dept. puts coders to work on ocean problems

The National Aquarium is one of five aquariums nationwide participating in the weekend hackathon, which seeks tech-driven solutions for sustainable fishing. Fifty-five people are already signed up for the Baltimore event.

Chromis cyanea, pictured at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

(Photo by Flickr user Brian Gratwicke, used under a Creative Commons license)

Overfishing is a global problem, one that the Baltimore area knows well, with annual quotas in place to protect the Chesapeake Bay’s crab population.

Now the U.S. State Department is turning to local coders, as it casts around for tech solutions to the ocean’s environmental woes.

The Fishackathon takes place this weekend at the National Aquarium, one of five aquariums nationwide hosting the event. The Baltimore hackathon will be held from 6 p.m. Friday to noon Saturday.

#CodeForFish wants you

“Coders and fisherers may seem like unlikely partners, but technology-driven solutions provide the reach and agility necessary to respond to fisheries’ challenges now and in the future,” State Department official Thomas Debass wrote in a blog post about the event. “Through the Fishackathons, we are looking to create new advocates for small-scalable and sustainable fisheries and to create new tools to transform their work towards more sustainable practices.”

Laura Bankey, the National Aquarium’s director of conservation, said Thursday that 55 people had registered for the Baltimore event.

“A real good turnout, much more than I expected for the first time here in Baltimore,” she added.

Bankey says the Fishackathon is an important opportunity.

“Technology, if done properly, could be used as an incredibly effective tool in a variety of ways when it comes to sustainable fisheries,” Bankey said. That includes “reporting illegal fishing and having accurate catch counts for fishermen so we can look at quotas on a real-time basis,” she said.

The program for the Baltimore Fishackathon includes remarks from the National Aquarium’s chief conservation officer, Eric Schwaab, Bankey and officials from the State Department, World Bank and USAID. (There’s also a nighttime, behind-the-scenes tour of the Shark Alley Exhibit.)

Prizes including cash, a trip to the Philippines and three months of membership in the virtual accelerator VentureHive.

Bankey added that Schwaab, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official, will also be participating in the State Department’s Our Ocean Conference next week.

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Tyler Waldman

Tyler Waldman is lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. A Towson University graduate and former local editor for Patch.com, Tyler has also written and photographed for publications including the Baltimore Brew, Howard County Times and Towson Times. He lives in Charles Village.

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