strong>By Lauren Keyson

NYC’s Team, Fishing Enforcement & Monitoring Operations (FEMO), was the winner of this week’s Fishackathon, the socially responsible hack and conference event that took place over the weekend and through the week at WeWorks in lower Manhattan. The NYC team was awarded $5000 in cash by Cast Software for an application that helps with the significant challenges facing the ocean from lack of awareness or just a lack of will. These include the continuing unsustainable fishing practices and marine pollution — and some are new problems, like ocean acidification. FEMO built a multiplatform app and web application to trying to resolve the problem of trawling, a way to catch fish with a large net.

FEMO’s CTO Vanbana Premkumar was thrilled to be part of a winning team. She came to the competition thinking, “Why not, I want to make a startup and maybe something big. I thought I would try out my talent and see how to make things work. So we picked the challenge around fish trawling, which is illegal.”

The Fishackathon was put on in support of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Ocean Conference for sustainable fishing. It was actually a national event with five cities in the U.S. – in addition to NYC; there were the cities of Boston, Miami, Baltimore, and Silicon Valley that also hosted events. “I attended the New York one, and was quite taken aback by the amount of energy and excitement that I saw,” said Thomas Debass, Deputy Special Representative for Global Partnerships in the Office of the Secretary of State. “I am here on his behalf because he is hosting his conference in DC. We were tasked to look at what ways we can engage the broader public, how important are our oceans, and obviously the fishing stock around the world. Because our oceans are under threat from pollution and the lack of control on over-fishing.”

Saeed Jabbar, Lead Digital Strategist for the Fishackathon who had been awake for two nights already gave his take on the event: “Sorry, I am sleepy! So it’s been a roll coaster of emotions — between the rain storms, and with 200 RSVP’s flowing in through the door. The event was woven with emotions, and then everything sort of leveled off. Great people came who worked on great projects and who truly cared about them. Even though we were tired, sleepy and all that, we are dedicated towards building something great, so that people in Somalia could be men and women fishing rather than being pirates.

“This was a collaboration of people from different sides of the country of all age groups — and even the world. It’s really rare to see that in a hackathon, especially in a tech hackathon where there is a gender difference involved. I believe that this is one of the very first tech events to have achieved this. That is one thing I really loved in this event.”

FEMO’s CTO Vanbana Premkumar was thrilled to be part of a winning team. She came to the competition thinking, “Why not, I wanted to make a startup and maybe something big. So I thought I would try out my talent and see how to make things work. So we picked a challenge around fish trawling which is illegal.”

For more about the fish hack, go to www.disruptivetechnologists.com

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