5 Cities Host Fishackathon

Led by the U.S. Department of State, developers in five cities will work concurrently to find solutions to sustainability problems facing international fisheries.

by / June 13, 2014
An Orbicular Burrfish at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Flickr/Michael Bentley

Starting June 13 and occurring over the weekend, five cities will host hackathons with a unique but common goal. Led by the U.S. Department of State, developers and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Boston, Baltimore, Miami and New York City will participate concurrently in what's being called a Fishackathon. Participants will address four challenges, not yet announced, facing the global fishing ecosystem. As with most hackathons, winners of the Fishackathon will receive prizes, but event leaders are doing a few other things differently.

Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized the importance of the issue on the project’s website. “Today, this incredible resource [the ocean] is threatened,” he said. “It’s threatened by unsustainable fishing, by pollution, by climate change. Indeed, how we respond to these challenges is literally going to help determine the future of our planet.”

Rewards will be used to encourage participation, ranging from $5,000 in cash to a trip to an international fishery that will benefit from the application that was developed. Fishackathon coincides with the Secretary of State's June 16th and 17th Our Ocean Conference, where experts from around the world will speak about what’s going on in the fishing ecosystem and how it impacts the world. The four challenges of Fishackathon have not been announced, but conference’s pillars may offer some clues. They are: sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification.

Event organizers seek to ensure sustainability in fishing practices, and as an event partner, CAST Software will seek to ensure sustainability in the development process, said Pete Pizzutillo, head of marketing.

“What we witness with most hackathons is that they really reward creative, fast-paced developing and the solutions are interesting and creative, but at the end of the day most of that code gets thrown away and they end up rewriting the winners under different conditions,” he said. “There should be some reward for folks for writing code that’s usable, that’s maintainable, and we have a system that can help identify that.”

CAST develops a software analytic platform that helps in the analysis of complex systems, like large enterprise software systems or e-commerce systems, but it works on small apps, too, Pizzutillo said. The idea is to identify structural quality issues and enforce development best practices and standardization, because one of the challenges a software project like this that draws on data sets from around the world is ensuring that all the pieces fit together, he said.

“Just like sustainability in fishing, our primary goal is helping people make good programs and systems that are sustainable,” he explained.

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.

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