Written by 3:00 pm Academic

### Unveiling Shared Off-Radar Fishing Spots through AI-Powered Dish Mapping

Majority of industrial vessels not publicly tracked threatening global commitment to protect oceans…

According to a report revealing previously undisclosed maritime activities, widespread unregistered fishing is hindering global efforts to safeguard dwindling fish stocks and coastal environments.

The Global Fishing Watch (GFW) research highlights that approximately 75% of industrial fishing vessels worldwide operate without public tracking, posing threats to food security, livelihoods, and marine ecosystems.

Despite the near-complete mapping of land-based extractive industries like agriculture, the oceans remain largely unregulated, described as the “wild west” by David Kroodsma, the study’s lead author and GFW’s director of research and development.

Kroodsma emphasized the challenge governments and organizations face in fulfilling the COP15 biodiversity summit pledge to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 due to the lack of transparency in maritime activities.

The study, published in the journal Nature, utilized GPS data, dish radar images, and artificial intelligence to monitor maritime activities between 2017 and 2021. It revealed that a significant number of vessels, including 63,000 warships and three-quarters of professional fishing boats, operated without public visibility, particularly in Africa and South Asia.

A substantial portion of unregistered vessels, such as passenger ships, supply vessels, fuel tankers, and container ships, remained off the radar. These “ghost ships” either lacked AIS transponders or deliberately disabled them to engage in illicit activities like illegal fishing or forced labor.

The study estimated that up to 20% of fishing activities could be illegal or unregulated, underscoring the inadequacy of existing data. It also highlighted discrepancies between reported and actual fishing patterns, with Asia accounting for 70% of global fishing activity compared to Europe’s 12%.

Moreover, untraceable fishing vessels frequently encroached into marine protected areas, posing a threat to marine biodiversity. Oceana advocates for mandatory public tracking of all vessels to safeguard marine reserves and fish populations.

With a third of global fish stocks depleted and critical marine habitats under threat, urgent action is needed to address overfishing and habitat destruction. The Covid-19 pandemic led to a temporary decline in fishing activity, but the industry remains vulnerable due to past overexploitation.

Kroodsma warned of the risks posed by overfishing to marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of over 500 million people dependent on the fishing sector. Sustainable fishing practices are crucial for ensuring global food security and preserving marine biodiversity.

The study also highlighted the increasing pressure on oceans from various commercial activities, including offshore energy installations and container ships. As demand for renewable energy grows, potential conflicts over marine space may arise, necessitating proactive solutions to manage competing interests.

In conclusion, the study underscores the rapid expansion of the maritime economy and the need for comprehensive monitoring and regulation to sustainably manage ocean resources and mitigate environmental impacts.

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Last modified: January 16, 2024
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