Managing fisheries from space

Global fisheries are overexploited worldwide, yet crucial catch statistics reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) by member countries remain unreliable. Recent advances in remote-sensing technology allow us to view fishing practices from space and mitigate gaps in catch reporting. Here, we use Google Earth to count intertidal fishing weirs off the coast of six countries in the Persian Gulf, otherwise known as the Arabian Gulf. Although the name of this body of water remains contentious, we use the name used in Google Earth. Combining, in a Monte Carlo procedure, the number of weirs (after correcting for poor resolution and imagery availability) with assumptions about daily catch and fishing season lengths, we estimate that 1900 (±79) weirs contribute to a regional catch up to six times higher than the officially reported catches of 5260 t. These results, which speak to the unreliability of officially reported fisheries statistics, provide the first example of fisheries catch estimates from space, and point to the potential for remote-sensing approaches to validate catch statistics and fisheries operations in general.

Al-Abdulrazzak, D. and D. Pauly. 2014. Managing fisheries from space: Google Earth improves estimates of distant fish catches. ICES Journal of Marine Science 71: 450-454. (Selected as The Editor’s Choice)

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