Wednesday, 13 November, 2019

Fishing Fleets Operate Across 55 Percent of the World's Oceans

Global fishing activity 2016 from the study Global fishing activity 2016 from the study
Patty Aguilar | 23 February, 2018, 22:22

The researchers were able to document just how far global fishing fleets will travel - covering more than 460 million kilometers (285,830,748 miles) in 2016 - a distance equal to going to the moon and back 600 times, reports CTV News . Of the 40 million hours that large ships fished in 2016, 17 million hours were by boats under a Chinese flag, according to another study co-author, Stanford marine biologist Barbara Block. The new research also found that in 2016, 70,000 ships of the global fishing fleet travelled across 460 km, nearly the same as travelling to the moon and back to Earth 600 times.

The study - which included researchers from Global Fishing Watch, National Geographic, Google and US universities such as Stanford - used satellite feeds and common ship tracking technology known as the automatic identification system (AIS). Global hot spots of fishing were seen in the northeast Atlantic and northwest Pacific, as well as in nutrient-rich regions off South America and West Africa.

Most nations appear to fish predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, but fishing fleets from China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea accounted for more than 85 per cent of the observed fishing effort on the high seas. This is because the research did not include some areas with poor satellite coverage. But we didn't know much about where the fish were, or who was fishing them.

Boerder and fellow Dal ecologist Boris Worm are part of an worldwide, multidisciplinary team that also includes researchers from sustainability advocacy group Global Fishing Watch, the National Geographic Society's Pristine Seas project, the University of California Santa Barbara, Stanford University, aerial monitoring group SkyTruth and Google.

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Global fishing patterns are tied more to politics and culture than to climate change and fish migration: For instance, holidays had the greatest effect on fishing patterns in most of the world. "Data of this detail gives governments, management bodies and researchers the insights they need to make transparent and well-informed decisions to regulate fishing activities and reach conservation and sustainability goals". "On the upside, however, this dataset also shows clearly where management boundaries are in place and where they are helping to constrain fishing effort".

A key finding of the study said fishing affects more than 55% of the ocean's surface - which is over four times the area covered by agriculture. Global Fishing Watch now monitors over 70,000 fishing vessels.

Kroodsma and colleagues gathered 22bn pieces of information from satellite systems installed in the biggest fishing vessels, and some smaller ones, usually operating closer to shore.

"For too long we haven't recognized that human impacts are the largest impacts on the planet", Block said. "The total area fished is likely higher", possibly up to 73%, said the report. "This new real-time dataset will be instrumental in designing improved management of the world's oceans that is good for the fish, ecosystems and fishermen". "We are pushing for better regulations and to integrate that data more and more, so having it publicly out there will really help".

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