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Scientists use space technology and AI to uncover the truth about human activity at sea: 'Helps eliminate the blind spots'

"A new industrial revolution has been emerging in our seas undetected — until now."

"A new industrial revolution has been emerging in our seas undetected — until now."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new era of ocean management and transparency may be on the way, as a group called Global Fishing Watch is attempting to use space technology and AI to track all of the world's industrial fishing vessels. 

"We believe human activity at sea should be common knowledge in order to safeguard the global ocean for the good of all," the group's website reads.

Global Fishing Watch released its most recent findings in a study published in the science journal Nature. The study found that around 75% of the world's industrial fishing vessels are "dark," or not publicly tracked. It also found that many of those vessels are likely operating illegally, fishing inside of protected areas, encroaching on other countries' waters, or engaging in other such sea crimes.

"Historically, vessel activity has been poorly documented, limiting our understanding of how the world's largest resource — the ocean — is being used," said Fernando Paolo, a machine-learning engineer at Global Fishing Watch.

"A new industrial revolution has been emerging in our seas undetected — until now," said David Kroodsma, the director of research and innovation at Global Fishing Watch and one of the lead authors of the study. "On land, we have detailed maps of almost every road and building on the planet. In contrast, growth in our ocean has been largely hidden from public view. This study helps eliminate the blind spots and shed light on the breadth and intensity of human activity at sea."

The group plans to make its data publicly available soon. Kroodsma said that in addition to monitoring for illegal fishing activity, the data could be used to track carbon and oil pollution.

Overfishing is a major problem that threatens entire marine ecosystems. Even types of fish that are regulated, such as the bluefin tuna, suffer from its effects. At the same time, the tuna's main food source, mackerel, is also being overfished.

If you're interested in eating more sustainable seafood and not contributing to overfishing, there is an online resource that can help you determine which types of fish are safe to buy and consume.

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