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September 1, 2016

Fish hackers? Wait… does that mean cybersleuthing a fisherman’s home computer? Au contraire, it’s about WPI students using mobile tech to help sustain fisheries.

Last April (during Earth Day weekend at WPI), Fishackathon united coders, graphic designers, and project managers for an intensive two-day programming session to devise cutting-edge solutions to the most pressing industrial and environmental issues plaguing aquaculture and aquatic life.

Hosted by the U.S. Department of State since 2014, Fishackathon tasks teams with creating a mobile smartphone app to address one of nine problems fishery experts define as the most critical to making the global fishing industry sustainable.

In the largest Fishackathon to date, teams participating simultaneously from more than 40 locations all over the world tackled issues related  to fish identification and tracking, monitoring systems for lost fishing gear, fishing vessel data, and compliance with marine laws and regulations.

Of hundreds of submissions, SUSHEE—short for “Scraping Unsearchable Sources to Halt Environmental Exploitation” —an app created at WPI by Jonathan Leitschuh ’16, Maryann O’Connell ’17, and UMass-Lowell student Darrien Glasser, was recognized as a global finalist. It is designed  to agglomerate a wide range of data on fishing vessels, to allow law enforcement officials to combat illegal and unregulated fishing, and to prevent rampant overfishing from destroying marine ecosystems.

“Prior to the event, I was unaware of the complex issues we are facing globally in regards to fishing,” O’Connell says. “By participating in Fishackathon, I was able to have fun developing software while contributing to a worthwhile cause.”