New Maps Reveal Industrial Fishing in More Than Half of World’s Oceans
Fishing is vital for food security and livelihoods across the globe, yet the extent of industrial fishing has remained largely unknown. Now, a team of researchers has tried to solve this problem by using the Automatic Identification System (AIS), an automatic ship-tracking system that uses satellite and land-based receivers to monitor a ship's location, originally designed to help prevent ship collisions.
To see where and when fishing takes place, the researchers tracked 77,000 industrial ships, including more than 75 percent of large-sized commercial vessels, using 22 billion AIS positions from 2012 to 2016.
"It was an immense effort to organize and process the AIS data, and then build complex machine learning algorithms," said lead author David Kroodsma, the director of research and development at Global Fishing Watch, a collaborative non-profit supported by Oceana, SkyTruth and Google. "Global Fishing Watch and our partners have been working on this for several years."
Shrimp trawler off Galveston, Texas, August 1986Photo by Robert K. Brigham / NOAA / Flickr
The resulting global maps revealed that industrial fishing vessels operated across more than 55 percent of the ocean, or over 200 million square kilometers (77 million square miles), in 2016 alone. That's higher than the proportion of land (34 percent) used in agriculture or grazing, the researchers wrote.
The dataset also showed that in 2016, commercial ships spent 40 million hours fishing and covered more than 460 million kilometers (286 million miles), equivalent to traveling to the moon and back nearly 600 times. While most countries fished predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, five nations—China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea–accounted for more than 85 percent of observed fishing in the high seas (part of the oceans not within any country's jurisdiction).
The researchers could also identify the kind of fishing gear the ships used. They found that longline fishing, which uses lines with evenly placed baited hooks, was the most widespread, seen in 45 percent of the ocean. By contrast, the team detected purse seine vessels, which use large dragnets, in 17 percent of the ocean, and trawlers in about 9 percent.
"Like some other fisheries colleagues, I was surprised that the AIS data coverage was as complete as the authors have demonstrated and that it was possible to determine which vessels are fishing," said Reg Watson, professor of fisheries and ecological modeling at the University of Tasmania, Australia, who was not involved in the study. "Other studies I have been part of have shown the intensity of global fishing and the satellite data confirms this."
AIS tracks, recorded by satellites, of a trawler (blue line), a purse seiner (green line) and longliner (red line)GIF by Global Forest Watch
The data also revealed that global fishing patterns were strongly linked to holidays and fishing closures. For instance, Chinese vessels showed massive dips in fishing activities during government-mandated seasonal fishing bans and around Chinese New Year. In contrast, many non-Chinese vessels reduced fishing over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
"This dataset provides such high-level resolution on fishing activity that we can even see cultural patterns, such as when fishermen in different regions take time off," co-author Juan Mayorga of the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in a statement.
Using the AIS data does have a few limitations, though. Most small fishing vessels do not have AIS, for example, which means that only larger industrial fishing vessels can be tracked, Kroodsma said. "AIS can also be turned off, although we think this affects a minority of fishing vessels, and we account for this in our study," he said. "Moreover, while satellite AIS reception is good across most of the globe, there are a few places, such as in southeast Asia, where reception is poor. Regulation on AIS use also varies by country, so you must take care to interpret different results from different countries."
The global maps are freely available to the public, and show a near real-time view of fishing vessels and fleets from around the world.
"By making this data public, we are providing governments, management bodies and researchers with the information needed to make transparent and well-informed decisions to better regulate fishing activities and reach conservation and sustainability goals," Mayorga said.
Watson said innovation was key for the future of fishing. "Though not intended for this purpose, the satellite data available to ensure the safety of ships can be very useful to map fishing but only after much clever processing," he said. "This AIS data and other data from satellites will become increasingly important for monitoring fishing effort.
"I am already working with the authors to develop better global maps of fisheries catch and effort," he added. "This is an excellent and valuable global initiative. We are only starting the process and it will be quite some time before we can observe all fishing from space but we need to start."
Fishing hours by country in 2016 Graph by Global Fishing Watch
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico.
- Planting Projects, Backyard Habitats Can Re-Create Livable Natural ... ›
- Humans Are Destroying Wildlife at an Unprecedented Rate, New ... ›
- UN Biodiversity Chief: Humans Risk Living in an 'Empty World' With ... ›
- Scientists Warn Worse Pandemics Are on the Way if We Don't ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
- The Vicious Climate-Wildfire Cycle - EcoWatch ›
- How Climate Change Ignites Wildfires From California to South Africa ›
- 31 Dead, 250,000 Evacuated in California Fires as Governor ... ›
World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
If you are taking medication for an underactive thyroid, check your prescription.