The information age is beginning to transform fishing around the world | Kiowa County Press

A researcher at the Oceana advocacy group uses GPS data to track the activity of fishing boats. Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Nicholas P.Sullivan, Tufts University

People in the developed countries of the world live in a post-industrial age, working mainly in service or knowledge industries. Manufacturers are increasingly relying on sensors, robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace human labor or make it more efficient. Farmers can monitor crop health via satellite and apply pesticides and fertilizers with drones.

Commercial fishing, one of the oldest industries in the world, is an exception. Industrial fishingwith factory ships and deep-sea trawlers, which land thousands of tons of fish at a time, are still the dominant mode of hunting in much of the world.

This approach led to overfishing, stock depletion, habitat destructionthe senseless murder of undesirables by-catch and a waste up 30% to 40% of fish landed. Industrial fishing has devastated pre-industrial artisanal fleets Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

The end product is largely a commodity that travels around the world like a manufactured coin or digital currency, rather than fresh domestic produce from the sea. travels 5,000 miles before reaching an attitude, according to sustainable fishing advocates. A portion is frozen, shipped to Asia for processing, then refrozen and returned to the United States

But these models are starting to change. In my new book, “The Blue Revolution: hunt, harvest and cultivate seafood in the information age“I describe how commercial fishing began encouraging developments towards a post-industrial era less destructive and more transparent. This is the case in the United States, Scandinavia, most of the European Union, Iceland , New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines and much of South America.

Sustainable fishing limits catches at or below levels that fishing can replace at its natural reproductive rate.

Fish with data

Changes in behavior, technology and policy are occurring throughout the fishing industry. Here are some examples:

  • Global Fisheries Monitoring, an international non-profit organization, monitors and creates open-access visualizations of global fishing activity on the Internet with a 72-hour turnaround. This breakthrough in transparency has led to the arrest and conviction of owners and captains of illegally fishing boats.

  • The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceabilityan international business-to-business initiative, creates voluntary industry standards for seafood traceability. These standards are designed to help harmonize various systems that track seafood throughout the supply chainSo they collect all the same key information and rely on the same data sources. This information allows buyers to know from which their seafood and they have been produced sustainably.

  • Fishing boats in New Bedford, Massachusetts – the first American fishing porton the basis of the total catch value – are equipped with sensors to develop a Marine database that will provide fishers with data on temperature, salinity and oxygen levels of the oceans. Linking this data to actual stock behavior and catch levels should help fishers target certain species and avoid incidental catches.

  • Annual catch limitsDistributed by individual quotas for each fisherman, helped fight against overfishing. Imposing catch shares can be very controversialbut since 2000, 47 overfished and closed US stocks have been rebuilt and reopened for fishingThrough political judgments based on the best available science. Examples include snow crab in the Bering Sea, swordfish in the North Atlantic and red grouper in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • A growing “fishie” movement that mirrors the widespread “foodie” locavore movement has been gaining momentum for over a decade. Inspired by agriculture, subscribers to community supported fishing pay in advance for regular deliveries from local fishermen. Such engagement between consumers and producers is beginning to shape buying habits and introduce consumers to new types of fish that are abundant but not iconic like the cod of old.

Farming fish on land

Aquaculture is the fastest growing form of food production in the world, led by China. The United States, which has exclusive jurisdiction over 3.4 million square miles of oceanowns barely 1% of the global market.

But aquaculture, primarily shellfish and kelp, is the third largest fishing industry in the Greater AtlanticAfter lobsters and scallops. Entrepreneurs also raising fin fish – including salmon, branzino, barramundi, rainbow rainbow trout, eels and kingfish – mainly in large onshore facilities. recirculation systems that reuse 95% or more of their water.

Industrial-scale marine salmon farming in Norway in the 1990s was largely responsible for the perception that farmed fish were bad for wild fish and ocean habitats. Today, this industry has moved to deep water offshore enclosure or terrestrial recirculation systems.

Virtually all new salmon farms in the United States – in Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana and several planned in Maine and California – are earthly. In some cases, water from aquariums is circulated through greenhouses to grow vegetables or hemp, a system called aquaponics.

There are heated debate on proposals to open US federal waters, between 3 and 200 miles offshore, for ocean aquaculture. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that without a growing mariculture industry, the United States will not be able to reduce and may even expand its $17 billion seafood trade deficit.

Willowfield Enterprises, based in Vancouver, Canada, farms coho salmon in recirculating tanks on land.

A voracious China

This kind of progress is not uniform across the fishing industry. In particular, China is the largest producer of seafoodRepresenting 15% of global wild catch and 60% of aquaculture production. Chinese fishing exerts a huge influence on the oceans. Observers believe that the Chinese fishing fleet could be up to 800,000 ships and its offshore fleet may include up to 17 000 ships, against 300 for the United States

According to a study by the nonprofit advocacy group Oceane from Global Fishing Watch data, between 2019 and 2021 Chinese vessels conducted 47 million hours of fishing activity. More than 20% of this activity took place on the high seas or inside the exclusive economic zones of 200 miles of more than 80 other nations. Fishing in the waters of other countries without permission, as some Chinese ships, is illegal. Chinese ships often target West African, South American, Mexican and Korean waters.

Most Chinese deep-sea vessels are so big they catch as many fish in a week as local boats from Senegal or Mexico could catch up in a year. Much of this fishing would not be profitable without government subsidies. Clearly, keeping China to higher standards is a priority for maintaining a healthy global fishery.

The restorative power of the ocean

There’s no shortage of grim information about how overfishing, along with other stresses like climate change, is affecting the world’s oceans. Nevertheless, I think it should be pointed out that more than 78% of the current landings of marine fish come from biologically sustainable stocks, according to the UN. And overexploited fisheries can often bounce through intelligent management.

For example, the US East Coast scallop fishery, which was virtually extinct in the mid-1990s, is now a US$570 million per year sustainable industry.

Another success is Cape Pulmo, A coastal strip five miles located at the southeast end of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Once a vital fishing area, Cabo Pulmo was barren in the early 1990s after overfishing intense. Then, local communities persuaded the Mexican government to turn the area into marine park where fishing was prohibited.

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“In 1999 Cabo Pulmo was an underwater desert. Ten years later it was a kaleidoscope of life and color,” ecologist Enric Saladirector of National Geographic Pristine Seas Project, observed in 2018.

Scientists say that through effective management, marine life at Cabo Pulmo has recovered to a level that makes the reserve comparable to remote and pristine sites who have never been caught. Fishing outside the shelter also rebounded, showing that conservation and fishing are not incompatible. I think this is a good reference for a post-industrial future ocean.

The conversation

Nicholas P.SullivanSenior Research Fellow, Fletcher Maritime Studies Program, and Senior Fellow, Council on Emerging Market Enterprises, Tufts University

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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